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Philadelphia ------ New York 

Authorized American Edition 

Printed in the United States of America 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 57-6239 


.his book, written in the bicentenary year of the 
Lisbon earthquake, is not, as its rather ambitious title may 
suggest, a full history of the event. In fact, it is concerned 
mainly with the related themes of eighteenth-century 
earthquake-theology and the end of optimism. "Musings 
in the Carmo" such a book would probably have been 
called in 1855, the centenary year, a name that would 
have better indicated its limited content. The making of 
my own small collection of earthquake-pamphlets and 
sermons started me writing this work, but I could not 
have completed it if it had not been for the abundant 
help of friends most generously given. In Portugal these 
are Dr. Jos6 d'Almada, Dr. Carlos Mascarenhas de Aze- 
vedo, Mr. Martin Blake, the British Council's Represen- 
tative in Lisbon, Eng. Castelo Branco of the Services 
Geol6gicos, R. Academia das Ci^ncias, Dr. Carlos Estor- 
ninho, librarian of the British Council, and Dr. M. Santos 
Estevens, Director of the Biblioteca NacionaL Outside 
Portugal I have especially to thank Mr. Theodore Bester- 
man, Director of the Institut Voltaire, Les D^lices, Ge- 
neva, for valuable help with my Chapter Seven, which he 
was kind enough to read in typescript, and also Professor 
F. L6pez Estrada of Seville University for help concerning 


6 Preface 

my Spanish digression in Chapter Three. In this country 
I have many friends to thank among whom are Professor 
E. N. da C. Andrade, Professor C. R. Boxer, Sir Gavin de 
Beer, Mr. Marcus Cheke, Mr. L. C. G. Clarke, Mr. C. R. 
Dodwell, Mr. H. V. Livermore, Sir Alfred Munnings, Sir 
Lewis Namier, Senor Xavier de Salas, and several very 
kind colleagues in the British Museum. I have left to the 
last Mr. George West of the British Council whose de- 
tailed knowledge of eighteenth-century Lisbon is indis- 
pensable to anyone in this country writing on the subject. 
I cannot sufficiently thank Mr. West for the interest he 
has taken in this book and for the constant help he has 
given me. 


British Museum, W.C.i 
October 1955 


1 LONDON, 1750 11 



4 THE WKATH OF GOD (i) 113 

5 THE WKATH OF GOD (2) 142 



8 LONDON, 1755-56 213 
INDEX 251 


Grouped in this order following page 128 

I Earthquake fright in London, 1750 

II Lisbon before the earthquake 

III The Lisbon Earthquake: painting by Stromberle 

IV The Praga da Patriarcal after the earthquake 

V Lisbon c. 1785: detail from a map by A. F. Tardieu 
VI The Marques de Pombal 
VII Voltaire: manuscript of poem and holograph letter 

VIII London and the Lisbon Earthquake: the Inquisi- 
tion blamed: a London cartoon, 1755 


i The earthquake area: Portugal 48 

2. The earthquake area: Peninsula and North 

Africa 49 

3 The Arms of Portugal 131 

Chapter One 

LONDON, 1750 


-n October 1777 John Wesley said in a letter to 
his friend Christopher Hopper, "there is no divine visit- 
ation which is likely to have so general an influence upon 
sinners as an earthquake/* and in this matter he spoke 
with experience and authority. In their correspondence at 
this time the two clergymen were no doubt referring to 
the earthquake that had recently alarmed Manchester and 
the neighbourhood on Sunday morning, 14 September; 
but Wesley, who was then seventy-four, was thinking also 
of the many past occasions on which he had seen a fright- 
ened people crowding into the churches after an earth- 
quake in the last-minute hope of turning aside the wrath 
of God by urgent contrition and promises of future piety; 
for in his day the majority of the people believed that 
by the shuddering of the supposedly solid ground beneath 
their feet they were supernaturally commanded to listen 
in dread and shame to the holy voice of God. 

Wesley, of course, had in his mind what we should call 
only light shocks; otherwise he would not have gone on 
to say in this same letter that an earthquake might be 
**no undesirable event." The Manchester earthquake ex- 
actly illustrated his point. It had done no real harm at 


12 The Lisbon Earthquake 

all; but it had rumbled like thunder, shaken churches 
where folk were at morning service, so that some mem- 
bers of the congregation ran out of them in fear, and it 
had burst open doors and windows, brought a few chim- 
neys down, and had made itself felt over a large area 
extending from Preston to Macclesfield. It caused great 
alarm, and was generally recognized as a dreadful an- 
nouncement of divine vengeance likely to fall on the un- 
happy city. When nothing happened, and the short-lived 
fright was over, Dr. Beilby Porteous, the Bishop of Ches- 
ter, published a letter to the people of Lancashire and 
Cheshire in which he exhorted them not to let the mem- 
ory of their providential escape fade without proper re- 
flection upon its significance. Divine admonitions were 
serious. "When the Almighty speaks in such tremendous 
language, he must not speak in vain." The Mancunians 
and their neighbours were too prosperous, and they had 
become sinful; but they had been spared the fate of Lis- 
bon. God in His mercy had given them time to consider 
their position, and in a straightforward, manly way the 
Bishop called upon his people to give more thought to 
their spiritual lives. He suggested that there should be a 
revival of the neglected practice of family prayer. 

All this was twenty-two years after the great Lisbon 
earthquake, but that terrible event was still remembered 
with awe, and was commonly mentioned, as the Bishop 

of Chester had done in his address, as something with 
which everybody was familiar. Possibly, the recollection 
of the murderous damage done in Lisbon on the mom- 
ing of i November 1755 ma 7 ^ iave increased the fears 
caused by the light shock in Manchester in 1777; but it 

London, 1750 13 

did not need a great earthquake to cause terror; in the 
eighteenth century a very mild earthquake indeed was 
frightening enough, even without a recent and close-at- 
hand example of the appalling results of a really serious 
earthquake. That this was so can be proved by the ex- 
ample of the two London earthquakes in February and 
March 1750, five years before Lisbon was destroyed. 
Very probably these were also in John Wesley's mind 
when he was writing to Hopper. He and Whitefield are 
said to have conducted all-night services on a shameful 
evening when London's earthquake-nerves had become 
almost uncontrollable. 

The first occasion was a shock, or perhaps two shocks 
following each other in close succession, that was felt 
about noon on Thursday, 8 February. The Lord Chan- 
cellor, Hardwicke, sitting in Westminster Hall with the 
Courts of King's Bench and Chancery, and the counsel- 
lors with Mm, experienced a severe jolt. They thought for 
a moment that the great building was going to collapse 
on their heads. Newcastle House in Lincoln's Inn Fields 
so trembled that the Duke sent out to inquire what was 
happening. His servant went to the house of a neighbour, 
Dr. Gowin Knight, afterwards first principal librarian of 
the British Museum, and found him investigating the 
signs of disturbance in his own house; a grate that had 
been seen to move, a fire-shovel thrown down, a bed 
moved from its proper position, and so on. A lamp-lighter 
in Gray's Inn very nearly fell off his ladder. At Leicester 
House, where the Prince of Wales lived, it was believed 
that the foundations were sinking. Generally, throughout 
the City and in Westminster there was sudden consterna- 
tion. People writing felt their desks lurch; chairs shook, 

14 The Lisbon Earthquake 

doors slammed and windows rattled; pewter and crockery 
clattered on the shelves. A timber slaughter-house in 

Southwark collapsed, and chimneys fell in Leadenhall 
Street and elsewhere. 

At first it was not believed that London was the vic- 
tim of anything so awful as an earthquake, and there 
were theories, usual in such circumstances, about cannon- 
fire and powder-mills exploding. Then, when the truth 
was inescapable, it was said, reassuringly, that Sir Isaac 
Newton had known that this was going to happen, as he 
had calculated that Jupiter was going to approach so 
close to the earth in 1750 as possibly to brush it. "Jupiter, 
I think, has jogged us three degrees nearer the sun," said 
Horace Walpole, making a bad guess about this astronom- 
ical explanation, and it was found necessary to protest 
in the papers against the great philosopher's name being 
linked with such nonsense. 

It was also thought by some people to be disgraceful 
that the London Evening Post for 10-13 February, as soon 
as most people had realized that the shock was caused 
by an earthquake, published only a bleak scientific note 
on the cause of such phenomena without making any ref- 
erence to God, and the usual sequel of moralizing and 
pamphleteering began; but there was not time for much. 
controversial talk to be published before London suffered 
another earthquake. Indeed, the whole event of Thurs- 
day, 8 February 1750, and its immediate aftermath, would 
have been of negligible importance were it not for the 
portentous fact that exactly four weeks later, on Thurs- 
day, 8 March, the blow fell a second time. 

Even this was a feeble shock, though everyone agreed 
that it was much more violent than the first. It occurred 

London, 1750 15 

in the early hours of the morning about 5:30 A.M.., just 
as it was beginning to get light. Lord Chesterfield, who 
was in a deep sleep, was woken up with a bump. Horace 
Walpole thought there was somebody moving under his 
bed. People ran out into the streets, mostly in their night- 
clothes. Church bells were ringing of their own accord. 
Some chimneys had fallen. A pot-house in Gravel Lane, 
Lambeth, had lost part of its roof. Elsewhere two old 
houses had collapsed. A maid-servant in Charterhouse 
Square fell out of bed and broke her arm. There was an 
enormous smash in a china shop in St. James's Street, 
and a collection of valuable china belonging to a lady 
who lived in Piccadilly suffered heavily. In the high 
grounds of Grosvenor Square the shock was badly felt, 
and kitchen utensils were flung from shelves and dressers. 
Things were just as bad in outlying districts. The bailiff 
of Henry Fox, afterwards the first Lord Holland, telling 
his sheep about a quarter of a mile from Holland House 
actually saw the dry, solid ground move like a quagmire 
or quicksand, to the great alarm of the sheep and of the 
crows nesting near by. 

This time the popular alarm was very much greater. 
It was all very well for scientifically minded persons to 
speculate about the physical cause of these recent blows, 
and to suggest that the last shock was not an earthquake 
at all, but an air-quake, as did the General Advertiser on 
13 March, presumably basing their view on a letter by 
John Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, written in 1693 
and now (in 1750) issued as a pamphlet; it was all very 
well to publish histories of earthquakes and classifications 
of them, proving that they are really frequent and familiar 

16 The Lisbon Earthquake 

natural events; it was all very well to show how lightly 
London had escaped, to show that even in the most 
ghastly disasters, for instance the earthquake in 1692 that 
destroyed Port Royal, Jamaica, God does mercifully and 

miraculously preserve many of His children. Londoners 
were not disposed to calm themselves by such considera- 
tions. Something was going wrong with the country. There 
had been the rebellion of 1745; there had been for some 
years a terrible cattle-plague causing serious loss; there 
had been "a sparing scourge" of locusts; and now, bang, 
bang, came two earthquakes neatly spaced four weeks 
apart. Londoners wanted to know what they ought to 
think and what they ought to do. It was the Church that 
gave them the required direction. 

The most important of these pronouncements was the 
letter addressed by the Bishop of London, Thomas Sher- 
lock, to his clergy and people. It was published on 10 
March. "Little philosophers/* he said, "who see a little, 
and but very little, into natural causes/' might try to ex- 
plain earthquakes without reference to God, but the 
Bishop recognized the recent shocks as a divine warn- 
ing that the time had come for Londoners to consider 
their faults. The Gospel was rejected in spite of Protes- 
tant advantages; books were published that disputed or 
ridiculed the great truths of religion, and such books were 
not only welcomed in the wicked metropolis, but widely 
circulated, even to our plantations ia America* Blasphe- 
mous language was used openly in the streets. Lewd pic- 
tures illustrated all the abominations of the public stews, 
and were tolerated. There was much homosexuality. Peo- 
ple were cra2y for amusement, and in one single news- 

London, 1750 17 

paper the Bishop had counted no less than fifteen adver- 
tisements for plays, dances, cock-fights, prize-fights, and 
so on, and this in Lent. Dr. Sherlock called for serious 
consideration of these shortcomings, but not for despair. 
God had not forgotten how to show mercy. We must now 
be genuinely sorry for our sins, and the Bishop showed 
how important it was that responsible people should set 
an example in good behaviour. Our rulers, magistrates, 
the clergy, heads of families, and parents generally, should 
recognize their duty, and a special attempt should be 
made to see that all young people received proper reli- 
gious instruction. 

The pamphlet was exactly right for the occasion. Some 
people, it is true, made a great deal of fun of it, and there 
was serious criticism to the effect that the Bishop should 
have remembered Chrisf s words about those killed by 
die fall of the tower in Siloam think ye that they were 
sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? But gen- 
erally the letter was accepted thankfully as the message 
of a brave and wise pastor. Men saw that the Bishop's 
rebuke was deserved, and they appreciated his conclud- 
ing comfort and advice. A "Very primitive discourse, and 
what is more, a very good one/* said William Warburton, 
the future Bishop of Gloucester, at that time Preacher to 
Lincoln's Inn. In their pitiful state of earthquake-nerves 
and uneasy fear of an extremely severe impending dis- 
aster, ordinary folk found the Bishop of London's sharp 
medicine a steadying draught, and the pamphlet sold in 
enormous numbers, having several times to be reprinted. 
An anonymous supplement to it, by an author who 
thought the Bishop had not adequately covered the cur- 
rent vices, also went into a second edition. 

i8 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Those who attended church had also been plainly di- 
rected in sermons, preached mostly on the Sunday after 
the second shock, 11 March. Thomas Seeker, then Bishop 
of Oxford and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, 
preached in St. James's, Piccadilly, the church of which 
he was still Rector. He said that God had interwoven 
in His original grand creation various incidents that would 
alarm us and be lessons to us, and if one of these inci- 
dents came sharply upon us in the form of an earthquake, 
we must recognize it as specially applied to us, in this 
unhappy case London, the headquarters of wickedness 
and the shameful example thereof to the whole island. 
He had heard that people were considering leaving Lon- 
don to avoid what now seemed to be an imminent dan- 
ger, and he asked if by such cowardice they hoped to fly 
from God, Fly from your iniquities, he said, if you would 
be safe. He urged his congregation to continue calmly 
with their daily occupations, remembering that the sea- 
son was Lent, so that excessive pursuit of amusements 
must be avoided. What was needed most of all was a 
serious practical attention to their spiritual state. 

The Reverend Dr. William Stukeley, MD., F.R.S., 
preached on this same subject in his church, St. George's, 
Queen Square, Bloomsbury. He showed that earthquakes 
are singled out above all natural phenomena by their maj- 
esty and dreadful horror to mark an immediate operation 
of God*s hand exercised in His divine anger. He was ready 
to discuss the physical causes of an earthquake with his 
fellow-scientists in the Royal Society; indeed, by 22 March 
he announced a theory that they were due to electricity, 
and three papers by him on this subject ( the Society could 
not properly follow his meaning in the first one) are pub- 

London, 1750 19 

lished in the Philosophical Transactions for 1750; but in 
his pulpit Stukeley had something much more important 
to say. Holy Scripture makes it quite clear that whatever 

their natural causes may be, earthquakes are God*s in- 
struments. This is why they always strike at populous 
cities, and not at uninhabited territories; and it is why 
they are specially frightful, inasmuch as they are sudden, 
unavoidable, and threaten us with a peculiarly dreadful 
form of death. God, therefore, was singularly merciful, 
considering the nature of London houses that sometimes 
collapse of their own accord, in merely giving London a 
good shake without toppling down one single inhabited 
house or killing one single person. The preservation of 
London was a miracle. God deliberately stopped the sec- 
ondary causes that were producing the earthquake from 
producing the kind of earthquake that would have de- 
stroyed London. 

What is God going to do next? asked William Agate, 
Lecturer of St. Lawrence Jewry, in a sermon preached 
in that church after the first shock. "Will he order winds 
to tear up our houses from their foundations and bury 
us in the rains? Will he remove the raging distemper 
from the cattle and send the plague upon ourselves? Or 
(the Lord in his infinite mercy save us!) he may com- 
mand the earth to open her mouth, and, the next time 
he ariseth to shake terribly the earth, command her to 
swallow us up alive, with our houses, our wives, our chil- 
dren, with all that appertains unto us/* 

The Reverend James Cox, D.D., until 1746 Master of 
Harrow School, a post from which he was dismissed as 
a result of his drunken and generally disgraceful behav- 
iour, preached sermons in Hampstead and in Kensington 

2o The Lisbon Earthquake 

that must have greatly frightened the congregations that 
sat under him. "We are now deservedly alarmed/' he said, 
"and, for aught we know, may receive a peremptory sum- 
mons that we cannot play with ... to walk into eternity 
in the twinkling of an eye, whether sleeping or waking, 
who can tell?'* What might be coming would prove a se- 
vere ordeal for the righteous, though they had the con- 
solation of hope for better things in another world; but 
the unrighteous "are in a deplorable case indeed; they 
have nothing to feed upon but anguish and despair; they 
have nothing to raise their spirits; everything to deject 
them; their fears will carry them in sight of those cham- 
bers of darkness where the abuse of their reason and their 
evil deeds have led them, and must make them inexpress- 
ibly unhappy, because they will whisper the certainty that 
they will be for ever miserable.'* These thoughtless and 
abandoned people cannot ever expect to have the merits 
of Christ's precious blood applied for the pardon and ex- 
piation of their grievous transgressions. "Damnation will 
have its numbers, and come time enough, come when it 
will" His hearers may not have understood this bailing 
statement, but at least it sounded dreadful, and doubtless 
added to the terror of this solemn jeremiad. 

Modern prophets had gone out of their way to multi- 
ply die reasons for dreading earthquakes. A remarkable 
book by Thomas Burnet (c. 1635-1715), Master of the 
Charterhouse, called The Sacred Theory of the Earth, first 
published in Latin in 1681, had reached its sixth edition 
by 1726, and was still read and discussed in the middle 
of the eighteenth century. 1 Bumet was of the opinion that 
this present earth, a very unsatisfactory second version of 

1 There was a seventh edition in 1759. 

London, 1750 21 

a first earth more or less destroyed by the Flood, was go- 
ing to end in a great conflagration that would burn it 
right up, and when this happened, though the fire would 
naturally begin at Rome, the headquarters o Antichrist, 
England was going to be a particularly unpleasant spot 
because of its extensive coalfields that would burn so 
easily. The fact that from the smoke and ashes a vastly 
improved earth would be formed on the model of the 
first was not likely to be a consolation to the victims of 
the great fire, who could do nothing except look out anx- 
iously for the signs that the awful day was approaching. 
Bumet said: 

The future combustion of the earth, according to the 
representations of scripture, is to be usher'd in and ac- 
companied with all sorts of violent impressions upon 
Nature; and the chief instrument of these violences will 
be earthquakes. These will tear the body of the earth 
and shake its foundations; rend the rocks, and pull down 
the tall mountains; sometimes overturn, and sometimes 
swallow up towns and cities; disturb and disorder the 
elements, and make a general confusion in nature. 

Burnet was dead, but living prophets of some scholastic 
importance and recognized position were likewise fore- 
casting extreme woe to come that would be preceded by 

monitory earthquakes. One of these prophets was that 
most outspoken person, William Whiston (1667-1752), a 
divine and a scientist with a special bent for mathemat- 
ics, who had for seven years been the successor of Sir 

Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at 
Cambridge, a position he lost owing to his unorthodox 
views on the Trinity. Whiston had evolved his own theory 

22 The Lisbon Earthquake 

of the earth that he constantly developed in sermons, lec- 
tures, newspaper articles, and letters to the Press. 

In Whiston's opinion the end of the world was fairly 
close at hand, but it was to be preceded by the restora- 
tion of the Jews to Jerusalem, and this event in turn was 
to be announced as imminent by ninety-nine tokens or 
signals, "vastly the greater part of which" had already 
been fulfilled. Prediction No. 92 was that there will hap- 
pen a very terrible, but to good men a very joyful, great 
earthquake, when a tenth part of an eminent city will be 
destroyed. Seven thousand men of name and note are to 
perish. 2 The shock felt in February therefore presented 
this muddled-headed divine with an opportunity to ex- 
pand his views (the great earthquake was to happen in 
London), and he gave a series of three lectures in Lon- 
don, the first of which on 6 March was on, the ninety- 
nine signals, and the second, on their fulfilment, on 8 
March, the day of the second shock. Lecture 3 on xo 
March on the horrid wickedness of the present age 
highly deserving such terrible judgement (a subject on 
which Mr. Whiston spoke with startling frankness and a 
great zest for naming culprits) was of a kind calculated 
to leave Ms hearers with the impression that in spite of 
earnest exhortations to repentance and prayer, sinful Lon- 
don was too far plunged in iniquity for there to be any 
real hope of averting disaster. 

The attendance in London at these throe lectures* were 
twenty-seven, sixty-five, and forty-three respectively; but 
a repetition at Tunbridge Wells was a failure, for on per- 
ceiving from Lecture No. i that the preacher was* going 

2 Cf. Revelation xi. 13. 

London, 1750 23 

to discourage the place's major industries "gaining and 
other fooleries" nobody turned up to the following dis- 
courses. In London, too, Whiston was no doubt rather a 
comic figure. "The greatest mischief the earthquakes have 
hitherto done is only widening the crack in old Will Whis- 
ton's noddle," remarked Warburton in a letter; but there 
was at the time a great interest in Biblical prophecy, and 
though some people might laugh, Whiston's views were 
talked about; after all, they came from a man of immense 
learning who had an established reputation as a theolo- 
gian, Biblical historian, editor of Josephus, and an astron- 
omer, mathematician, and physicist. He might be right, 
and his vehement utterances contributed sensibly to the 
prevalent malaise. 

Most of the general earthquake-literature published at 
the time was of the kind to spread further despondency. 
Painful accounts appeared of the 1692 earthquake that 
had destroyed Port Royal, Jamaica, described in one pam- 
phlet as "the most terrible earthquake that has ever hap- 
pened since the creation of the World," and in the mid- 
dle of February a new edition was published of the True 
and Particular Relation of the Dreadful Earthquake 
at Lima and Callao, a translation from the Spanish 
in a handsome 5$. book that described a catastrophe in 
Peru that happened in 1746, only four years previously, 
which was "one of the most dreadful, perhaps, that ever 
befel this earth since the general Deluge." It had caused 
great destruction in Lima and had virtually obliterated 
the port, Callao, by gigantic seismic inundation, There 
five thousand people perished and only two hundred were 
saved. "Not the least sign of its former figure does now 

24 The Lisbon Earthquake 

appear; on the contrary, vast heaps of sand and gravel 
occupying the spot of its former situation, it is at present 
become a spacious strand." 

This disquieting book was followed early in March by 
a second edition of the Practical Reflections on the late 
Earthquakes by John Shower, the Nonconformist divine, 
originally published in 1693, a decent, careful, but exces- 
sively gloomy little book costing is. 6d. It ends with a 
forcible expression of the view that whatever God in His 
mercy may do in the way of sparing the nation, for all 
unrepentant sinners nevertheless "it is most certain that 
security is a presage of ruin." Such people cannot be long 
out of the grave or out of Hell, and are in danger of 
damnation every hour, terrible remediless torment under 
the everlasting curse of God. 

It is sad to hear of this, sad to foresee it, to consider 
it, to think of it; but it will be much sadder to suffer, 
and to feel it. And be not deceived, it is not the less 
certain, because it is yet future. You are now alive, and 
do not see the grave digged for you, and yet you must 
die. And as certainly do I know from the word of God, 
who cannot lie, that except you repent, you must perish, 
and that forever. 

There was little in the numerous cheaper pamphlets, 
written for the occasion, that could have made any sort 
of contribution to the nervous reader's peace of mind. 
Nor were the Verses on the late Earthquakes: address d 
to Great Britain in any sense consoling. The poet was 
"strongly apprehensive of something yet more disastrous 
at hand/* It was understandable that other wicked lands 
should suffer earthquakes. 

London, 1750 25 

Jamaica shoud be shook! a Land 
Like Sodom, all impure! 

That Earthquakes rock Italic Ground, 
Scarce strikes us with Amaze! 

And so on. But now Britain, because of its wickedness, is 

running a similar risk. 

Own it! (but with a blush} "No Realm 
Like ours! so vile! so vain! 
See! to the Dunghill from the Helm 
Extends the moral stain!" 

Benjamin Stillingfleet also gave the Londoners a poem, 
Some Thoughts occasioned by the late Earthquakes, for 
the benefit of those who, while they might be inclined to 
read verse, were not likely to wade through the prose of 
the Bishop of London's letter with proper attention. He 
too said the sinful people were in the greatest possible 
danger. Britain had thought herself immune from disas- 
ters such as affect other nations, but now she knows from 
recent convincing and alarming events that God: 

Wanteth not stones to execute His wrath 

Wherever Vengeance calls: the gaping Gulph 
Shall overwhelm us if He give the word. 

Understandably, after all this there were a good many 
people in London who were really nervous and appre- 
hensive. And this time, instead of their fears quickly dis- 
appearing, as usually happens after a light shock, they 
lingered and increased. The tidiness of an interval of ex- 
actly four weeks between, the two shocks was now con- 
sidered to be unpleasantly mysterious. It is in fact this 
coincidence that in the end gave these two very mild 

26 The Lisbon Earthquake 

earthquakes an unexpectedly discreditable importance in 
London history, for in consequence of their remarkable 
timing a lunatic Mf eguardsman called Mitchell went about 
the town circulating a prophecy that at a further interval 
of four weeks, that is on the night of Wednesday, 4 April, 
or on the morning of Thursday, 5 April, London was go- 
ing to be destroyed by a third, and this time completely 
devastating, earthquake. This at once eclipsed the vaguer 
lucubrations of all the other prophets of woe. London's 
time was up, and the date of its obliteration settled. In 
their long history Londoners have not shown themselves 
to be a characteristically nervy and timorous people, 
but on this occasion earthquake-fright caused an ignoble 
panic. As the supposedly fateful day approached, the 
general alarm grew greater and more hysterical; there 
was much talk of leaving the capital, and some people 
did indeed begin to pack up and go. 

The clergy spoke out bravely against this cowardice, 
led by Thomas Seeker in his sermon on n March in St. 
Jameses, Piccadilly; but the most urgent rebuke, preached 
on Sunday, i April, when the panic was approaching its 
height, was the inspiring sermon of Roger Pickering, 
F.R.S., pastor of a church of Dissenters in Silver Street 
and Lord's Day Evening Lecturer at Salter's Hall, a ser- 
mon that he succeeded in getting into print before 5 April, 
the day of the expected shock. His theme was the omni- 
presence of God. "If I take the wings of the morning, and 
dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: even there shall 
thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." 
The psalmist, said the preacher, knew that no distance 
could separate him, no velocity remove him, from divine 

London, 1750 27 

vengeance if guilty, nor put him beyond the protection 
of God, were he a righteous man. 

Pickering was a scientist, and he asked what maximum 
flight the lovely words quoted could be fancifully as- 
sumed to mean. Perhaps a speed that was that of the ve- 
locity of light, and a distance of a full half -circle of the 
globe; 10,800 miles at something like 10,000,000 miles a 
minute. The longest possible flight on earth in the short- 
est possible time, say one-thousandth of a minute. But it 
would be no use; so what good could be this pitiful emi- 
gration to places a few miles from London? The preacher 
then recited to his people the great hymn to creation con- 
tained in the 104th psalm; he showed that God was uni- 
versally present throughout His creation, today as at the 
beginning, and presided over its destiny in all particulars, 
and that all men were under the constant government and 
influence of God. Christians must not be afraid. We must 
trust God. In the magnificent end to his sermon, Picker- 
ing said: 

I adjure you, by the Interest of that Gospel you pro- 
fess, by the Credit of that Faith on which you rest your 
Souls, that, with humble Hearts, but with Christian 
Confidence, in your respective Stations ON THE SPOT 
where Providence has placed you, YE WAIT the WILL 

It was, however, too late for this noble command to 
steady the nerves of a thoroughly frightened people. The 
exhortations of so many clergy, the example of men of 
high position, and the derision of the wits, did not suc- 
ceed in preventing the shameful exodus. After all, the 
people had been told plainly enough that the warning 

28 The Lisbon Earthquake 

of the shocks was specially directed to the inhabitants 
of the cities of London and Westminster; they were the 
guilty culprits; they were told too (Dr. Stukeley had 
made a special point of this ) that earthquakes strike only 
at densely populated places; and they were told that they 
bury indiscriminately both the righteous and the unright- 
eous. Under these circumstances who was going to be 
foolish enough to stay in a doomed town? The obvious 
thing to do was to get out of London as soon as possible, 
So nervousness increased, and finally there was a truly 
shameful panic. On the eve of the prophesied disaster 
Horace Walpole said, "This frantic fear prevails so much 
that within these three days 730 coaches have been 
counted passing Hyde Park Corner with whole parties 
removing into the country/' The roads were crowded 
with refugees. Lodging was unobtainable in safe places 
like Windsor and other outlying towns and villages. Some 
who did not go right out of town camped in near-by 
fields or sat in coaches or in boats for the night. Women 
made "earthquake gowns'* for a vigil in the open. A con- 
temporary cartoon (PL I) is a fair comment on what 
must have been a deplorable scene, though it is spoilt 
for us by the fact that the refugees passing the top of 
St. James's Street are going eastwards instead of, as is 
more likely, westwards. We hear that a third of the in- 
habitants of London fled, no doubt a great exaggeration; 8 
but people certainly escaped from the town in very large 
numbers. And when nothing happened on 5 April, many 

8 This is Stukele/s estimate. "Publicws" in the General Evening Tost t 
17-19 April, said that "perhaps 100,000 persons*' left their houses to 
take refuge in Hyde Park on the night of Wednesday, 4 April 

London, 1750 29 

stayed away until after Sunday the eighth, in case the 
sequence was to be 8 February, 8 March, and 8 April. 
One of the refugees explained her conduct. This was 
Lady Bradshaigh, who escaped to Reading and wrote 
from there to Samuel Richardson, who, she hoped, had 
at least left his town house in Salisbury Court, Fleet 
Street, together with Mrs. Richardson, for his house at 
North End, Hammersmith, 

I could not help reflecting [she wrote on 25 March], 
how many valuable people I left in a situation threat- 
ened with a calamity I was flying from; which gave me 
infinite pain. The Bishop of Oxford, I hear, in his ser- 
mon . . . called it a presumption in any one who left 
London on this occasion. A presumption it would be in 
those who remove with an assurance of safety; but, if 
a person's mind will be more at ease in one place than 
another, it may argue a weakness, but I know no harm 
in chusing that place. I religiously believe God's provi- 
dence is over all His works; and on that every serious 
person must depend, whatever situation he may be in. 
He has also given us means to provide for our safety, 
and permits us to fly from danger, though, from our 
erroneous judgement, we may run into a greater. God 
hath warned us to flee from the wrath to come, and if 
we take that for a warning, which, in reality, is not one, 
surely in that we sin not. 

Lady Bradshaigh did not wish to compare London with 
Sodom, for London BO doubt contained many good peo- 
ple; but because of its size it also contained a propor- 
tionately large number of bad people, so it was just as 

well to keep away, and, setting aside all other considera- 

30 The Lisbon Earthquake 

tions, London, by reason of its crowded and insecure 
buildings, "is, of all other places, to human appearance, 
the most dangerous/* The Richardsons refused to budge. 
Lady Bradshaigh pointed out that there was never any 
long space of time between shocks, and it was obviously 
prudent to keep at a distance from the place of alarm. 
She was glad, however, to be able to say that the pre- 
sumptuous prophecy of the lifeguardsman had not influ- 
enced her at all. 

After they had at last considered it safe to return, the 
refugees found they had come back to face a very bad 
Press. The Remembrance called their behaviour irrational 
and impious, and was much concerned for the national 
dignity. The Daily Advertiser observed in verse that "low 
stupid panics speak a pigmy race 9 *; the London Magazine 
observed that such imaginary fears should not have taken 
the place of the proper reflections due ou such an occa- 
sion, and the Gentleman's Magazine said *so far, even to 
their wit's end, had their superstitious fears, or their guilty 
conscience driven them/" The London Evening Fost, un- 
der reproof for tardiness in recognizing God's personal 
intervention on the occasion of the first earthquake, now 
spoke out bravely about these cowards. "Let such weak 
minds consider that when God resolves to punish a sin- 
ful nation, He alone knows the proper time of doing it 
... a time that no human sagacity could ever foresee 
or foretell/" 

The lifeguardsman was sent to the madhouse. The pub- 
lic fright was quickly forgotten, and folk resumed uncon- 
cernedly their ordinary lives. In the preface to the pain- 

London, 1750 31 

phlet edition 4 of his Philosophy of Earthquakes, Natural 
and Religious, a paper read to the Royal Society in De- 
cember 1750, Stukely said he was continuing his investi- 
gation in order that the two recent shocks should not be 
so quickly forgotten, as they seemed to have been, by 
"the giddy multitude/* But thoughtful people did not 
easily forget the controversy between those who believed 
God had purposely given London two sharp jolts in or- 
der to remind the city of its iniquity and those who did 
not think God had shown any immediate interest in Lon- 
don in this remarkable way. This dispute did not de- 
velop unexpectedly in magnitude or bitterness in 1750., 
nor did it even remotely approach the painful urgency 
that the problem presented after the Lisbon earthquake 
in 1755. But it was there, and it rankled, disturbing or- 
thodox clerical minds that had become singularly sensi- 
tive to any doctrine that seemed to belittle revealed re- 
ligion and to be in agreement with deistic thought. 

Some of the clergy merely asserted the immediate di- 
vine origin of earthquakes without theological or philo- 
sophical comment. That it is God who shakes the earth 
"is as great and evident a truth as that he doth exist/' 
said the Dissenter Thomas Newman, preaching at Crosby 
Square, and he dismissed all the talk about subterranean 
caverns, inflammable vapours, and so forth, as irrelevant 
prattle. Theophilus Lobb, Nonconformist theologian, de- 
clared in his Sacred Declarations (1750) that "earth- 
quakes are the productions of the almighty power of 
God, and happen only when and where He commands 

4 Stukeley's sermon at St. George's and his two Royal Society papers 
were published together as a pamphlet in 1750; they were re-issued 
after the Lisbon earthquake with an additional paper read to the Royal 
Society on 15 January 1756. 

32 The Lisbon Earthquake 

them to happen." In other words, as Dr. John Allen put 
it, since nature is God-created and God-governed, "the 
philosophy of nature is but knowledge of the art of God." 

But many of the clergy had much more to say on this 
particular subject than a simple declaration of opinion, 
knowing that if they assured their hearers that God had 
a part as an immediate agent in these or any other earth- 
quakes, an enlightened and inquisitive mid-eigliteenth- 
century society would expect from the preacher a rea- 
sonable theodicy, a justification of the God who was al- 
leged to govern His people by the sharp threat of an 
impending earthquake and, indeed, by the appalling sav- 
agery of a great earthquake itself. 

The clergy were quarrelling with philosophers and not 
with scientists; indeed, clergy and scientists could not 
even be marshalled in opposite camps. Whiston was a 
scientist and had held Newton's chair; Theophilus Lobb 
was a physician and F.R.S.; Pickering was F.R.S,; and 
Chandler became one in 1754. Stukeley, also F.R.S., lec- 
tured to the Royal Society, and his friend Stephen Hales, 
the Curate of Teddington, was another famous scientist 
divine, F.R.S. , and D.D., who addressed the Society on 
the subject of earthquakes, saying he could pass without 
delay to a scientific discussion of their cause, as the other 
side of the matter had been adequately treated in the 
Bishop of London's letter. Indeed, it is the case that many 
clergy agreed that some earthquakes were best explained 
by their natural scientific causes and not as an act that 
was supernaturally controlled, for God had created this 
world in such a way that its perfect ordering, arrange- 
ment, and development made earthquakes necessary as 
part of His original plan for its physical behaviour. The 

London, 1750 33 

Archbishop of Dublin, William King (1650-1729), had 
written in his Essay on the Origin of Evil: 5 

Neither are Earthquakes, Storms, Thunder, Deluges 
and Inundations--Aigarnents against the Wisdom and 
Goodness of God. They are sometimes sent by a just 
and gracious God for the punishment of Mankind; but 
often depend on other natural Causes, which are nec- 
essary, and could not be removed without greater Dam- 
age to the whole. These Concussions of the Elements 
are indeed prejudicial, but more Prejudice could arise 
to the Universal System by the Absence of them. 

The scientists had in their own right a considerable 
public in the learned world accustomed to their views. 
The entry made under the heading "earthquake" in 
Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopedia (second edition, 1738) 
begins, "in natural history a vehement shakeof the earth; 
from natural causes/* and there is no suggestion that these 
"greatest and most formidable phenomena of nature" 
could possibly have any other cause; and the account of 
earthquakes in the first volume of Buffon's already pop- 
ular Histoire Naturelle ( 1749 ) was a part of his system- 
atic explanation of nature solely in terms of natural cause 
and effect. The clergy, therefore, had a good opportunity 
for accepting a changing view about the significance of 
earthquakes and attempting to calm their agitated con- 
gregations by an assurance that the two earthquake- 
shocks might after all have been natural phenomena. 
But there were strong reasons for not doing so. They 
did think the sins of the age merited divine rebuke; they 
found the majority of the people tearfully ready to ac- 

6 Third edition (Cambridge, 1739), p. 188, trims, by Edmund Law, 
King's De Origins Mali was first published in 1702. 

34 The Lisbon Earthquake 

cept the earthquakes as such a rebuke; and, above all, 
the common interpretation of them in this sense enor- 
mously strengthened the apparent case of the Church 
against the deism of the 'little philosophers." 

This was still an important consideration. In the middle 
of the eighteenth century it was not the forgetfulness of 
unheeding people, not the sturdy unbelief of the atheist, 
nor the ribaldry of flippant folk that constituted separately 
or together the worst danger the clergy had to oppose. 
They knew well enough how to deal with such ordinary 
enemies of the faith. It was against the followers of nat- 
ural religion that the earthquake-panic offered a crushing 
argument, if it were agreed that God was by means of 
these earthquakes directly speaking to His sinful children 
on earth; for in natural religion an aloof and unapproach- 
able God stands coldly away from His creation, letting 
it work itself according to originally established natural 
laws, and this kind of God had to be challenged and 
denounced by the ministers of a revealed religion based 
on the central doctrines of the Incarnation and Atone- 
ment, and the use of sacramental worship. Natural reli- 
gion could not be anything else than a subtle and very 
serious menace to orthodox Christianity, and the hostility 
shown to Matthew TindaFs outspoken book, Christianity 
as Old as the Creation, published in 1730, is a proof that 
the danger of deism had not by this time passed harm- 
lessly away. 

Therefore, in addition to the pastoral care expected 
from them, the clergy had to assert convincingly that 
God loved His people and presided over their destinies 
to the extent of warning them by sharp punishment when 
they had been, as now, excessively wicked. The necessity 

London, 1750 35 

for punishment was not difficult to explain with so many 
sinners already on their knees. But a severe earthquake 
as a just punishment of mankind is not so easily explained. 
In fact, before asking why such an indiscriminately cruel 
event is used by God for the purpose of His moral gov- 
ernment of the world, comes an understandable question 
about the competence of a Creator who made a world 
so imperfect that such horrible proofs of its faulty struc- 
ture were thus revealed. Nevertheless current optimistic 
thought of the period had a ready answer to both ques- 
tions, one that was no longer to be found only in the 
lofty thought of Leibniz, Bolingbroke, and Pope, and 
other of the more illustrious philosophers, but was or- 
dinary preacher's material. In the first place, an earth- 
quake may seem to be a disastrous event overthrowing 
the essential basic security of a settled order of nature, 
and may therefore appear to be a proof of the imperfec- 
tion of God's work at the creation of the world; but this 
is because we cannot even dimly comprehend the colossal 
plan involved in the act of creation. This thought was 
stated many times at many different levels of society in 
various ways. As an example, John Clarke, afterwards 
Dean of Salisbury, said in his Boyle Lectures in 1719: 6 

In the ordinary Works of human Art and Contriv- 
ance, we see how difficult it is to account for any par- 
ticular Part in most of them, without knowing the whole 
Composition: As in a Clock or a Watch; He who should 
go about to condemn the Shape or Use of any partic- 
ular Wheel, the Situation or Design of which was not 

Clarke's sermons were called An Enquiry into the Cause and Origin 
of Evil, Lctsome and Nicholl. Boyle Lectures, ni, pp. 168-69. London, 

36 The Lisbon Earthquake 

at all understood by Him; it would but discover his 
own Ignorance and not at all reflect upon the Work- 
man. We need not therefore be surprised, if in our Sur- 
vey of the Universe, we be often at a loss to account 
for many Things that we observe there. 

And, further: 

We judge of the Knowledge and Skill of the Work- 
man by his Performances; or by what we experience of 
his Skill, we judge what is likely to be the Effect of it: 
and these mutually assist each other. So likewise in the 
System of the World, or the whole Frame of Nature; 
we know that a Being infinitely wise, all-powerful and 
good, cannot be the Author of any Thing, but what 
is worthy of those Perfections to create: And conse- 
quently, since every Thing that is, was made by Him, 
it must originally and as He made it, be very good; 
that is, fit for that End and Purpose for which it was 

An earthquake may not therefore be, as an imperfec- 
tion in the natural order, an evil thing; and, arguing on 
the same lines, it may not be morally, if used as a pun- 
ishment, an unjust thing. In 1736 in one of the greatest 
English theological works of the first half of the eight- 
eenth century, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Re- 
vealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, Joseph 
Butler, who in this year, 1750, two years before his death, 
had just become Bishop of Durham, wrote: 

Suppose then, that there are things in the system of 
the world, and plan of Providence relating to it, which 
taken alone would be unjust: yet it has been shown 

unanswerably, that if we could take in the reference, 

London, 1750 37 

which these things may have to other things present, 
past, and to come; to the whole scheme, which the 
things objected against are part of; these very things 
might, for aught we know, be found to be, not only 
consistent with justice, but instances of it. 

Indeed, it has been shown not only possible that this 
may be the case, but credible that it is. 7 

The two earthquakes of 1750 were accordingly re- 
garded by Bishop Seeker in his aforementioned sermon 
as examples of incidents intended to alarm us from time 
to time that for our benefit had been woven by God into 
His original scheme of creation. Another preacher, the 
Nonconformist Samuel Chandler preaching in Old Jewry 
on 11 March, said that earthquakes and like disasters are 
operations of the laws of nature determined by God, their 
"proper agent/' at the time of the first origin of nature, 
and are constantly maintained in their activity and vig- 
our by Him in order that they may exert themselves and 
produce their effect at those predetermined periods in 
which God foresaw they would best promote the purposes 
of His moral providence and government. In effect, then, 
what people were told was that, having due regard to 
the infinite wisdom of God, earthquakes, however terri- 
ble, must be accepted as something beneficial in two 
ways: physically beneficial to the earth as a purge or 
as an enrichment of local mineral resources; and bene- 
ficial morally, on a long view, to the human race that 
had to endure the temporary suffering they caused. 

All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. 
Even an earthquake. And this was the Leibnizian view, 
preached by Chandler and others in London in 1750, that 

7 Part II, Ch. VIII, p. 306, ed. Halifax, new edition 1844. 

38 The Lisbon Earthquake 

had to be examined just over five years later in desperate 
moods of anxiety, pity, and terror, when an earthquake 
happened that by its savage destruction of a famous city 
and its unheeding massacre of the inhabitants most pro- 
foundly shocked not only London but all the world. 

In this turmoil of rumours, prophecies, panicky fears, 
sermonizing, and pamphleteering, there were, as is to be 
expected, many who preferred to stand aside from the 
commotion and watch the spectacle of their fellow-citi- 
zens making fools of themselves. There was much flip- 
pancy. Some ladies of Westminster were alleged to be 
"so deliberately, so ludicrously profane in these awful 
judgements'" as to send each other invitations to earth- 
quake-parties. 8 The members of White's were described 
by a parson as such an impious set of people that, if the 
Last Trump were to sound "they would bet puppet-show 
against Judgement." Moreover, as they deserved, the ref- 
ugees were mocked mercilessly, and the clergy blamed 
for taking an unfair advantage of the people's alarm, 

I think the parsons have lately used the Physicians 
very ill [wrote David Hume to John Clephane, a Scot- 
tish medical man], for in all the common terrors of 
mankind you used both to come in for a share of the 
profit: but in their new fear of earthquakes, they have 
left you out entirely, and have pretended alone to give 
prescriptions to the multitude. I see ... a pastoral 
letter of the Bishop of London, where, indeed, he rec- 
ommends certain pills, such as fasting, prayer, repent- 
ance, mortification, and other dings, which are entirely 
to come from his own shop. 

8 Old England, Saturday, 7 April 1750, An anonymous letter signed 
Eubalus (? written by Winston). 

London, 1750 39 

Horace Walpole said in a letter that the clergy "who 
have had no windfalls of a long season," have "driven 
horse and foot" into the opinion that the two earthquakes 
were a divine judgement. 

There has been a shower of sermons and exhortations. 
Seeker, the Jesuitical Bishop of Oxford began the mode. 
He heard the women were all going out of town to 
avoid the next shock; and so, for fear of losing his 
Easter offerings, he set himself to advise them to await 
God's pleasure in fear and trembling. But what is more 
astonishing, Sherlock, who has much better sense, and 
much less of the Popish confessor, has been running a 
race with him for the old ladies and has written a pas- 
toral letter of which 10,000 were sold in two days; and 
50,000 have been subscribed for since the first two edi- 
tions. You never read so impudent, so absurd a piece! 
This earthquake, which has done no hurt, in a country 
where no earthquake ever did any, is sent, according 
to the Bishop, to punish bawdy prints, bawdy books 
. . . gaming, drinking (no, I think, drinking and ava- 
rice, those orthodox vices are omitted), and all other 
sins, natural or not. . . , 

The Devil (in an anonymous pamphlet) wrote a let- 
ter of congratulation and advice to the inhabitants of 
Great Britain, particularly those of the two cities of Lon- 
don and Westminster, in the matter of their conduct be- 
fore and after the late earthquakes. Before then he had 
been delighted with the British: "we know not which is 
most worthy of our admiration, whether your unparal- 
leled refinements in all kind of luxury and debauchery, 

g Letters of Horace Wdpole, ed, Toynbee, n, p. 435, 

40 The Lisbon Earthquake 

or your sagacity in reasoning away every principle of vir- 
tue and honour. . . . France and Rome compared to you 
are but petty candidates for Hell"; but after the first 
quake the Devil feared the British would take fright and 
truly repent their evil ways, and he was accordingly over- 
joyed to discover that they were only momentarily scared. 
The second shock was a new risk from his point of view. 
"Fear drove you to your temples, and the few enemies 
we have among your priests improved the occasion and 
thundered repentance from the pulpits, and fear or shame 
even influenced the rest to the like practice"; but, once 
more, Hell was reassured. As soon as the day of the pre- 
dicted third shock was safely past, the people recovered 
their equanimity, and Hell smiled at their renewed wick- 
edness. "Return then, my dear children, to your wonted 
course . . . laugh at them who would be serious with 
you. Confound them with second causes" 

A "Gentleman in Town/* Walpole's friend Richard Bent- 
ley, in another pamphlet published anonymously, de- 
scribed in the form of a letter to a country friend a pre- 
tended third earthquake. When it happened the first man 
sunk was the Bishop of London, though he might have 
escaped if he had not been so busy distributing copies 
of his letters. The Duke of Newcastle was next, the place 
of his disappearance being marked by scatterings of pa- 
pers and red tape. Then followed a long list of other no- 
table casualties, and the news that Mr. Whiston had set 
out on foot for Dover on the way to Jerusalem to meet 
the millennium. 

The joke proved so popular that a second letter was 
published. White's was swallowed up, Mr, Tuff wagering 
that all the members were going to Hell; the Inns of 

London, 1750 41 

Court were all sunk, and it was ordered that no lawyers 
were to be rescued, though they had since begun to 
swarm as usual. The Speaker was dug up with the mace 
in his hands. A wide breach opened between St. James's 
Palace and Leicester House (the residence of the Prince 
of Wales, who had quarrelled with the King). Brown 
Willis was dug up by order of the Antiquarians. Mr. 
Gideon in the City (Sampson Gideon, the financier) 
threatens still another quake if his brethren do not sub- 
scribe their four per cents quick enough. The Commis- 
sioners of Westminster Bridge have ordered the earth- 
quake to be entered in their books as a glorious excuse 
for the next sinking pier (the sinking of a pier had been 
prominent news in 1748 ) . The Middlesex justices, having 
been asleep for many years, have woken up and con- 
demned a masquerade at Ranelagh, advising young peo- 
ple not to attend it; but in order not to offend the pro- 
prietors, they kept their advice secret till the day before 
it took place, so that the tickets might all be sold before 
the young people knew it would be improper to use them. 
This was the Venetian Masquerade announced for 17 
April, Tuesday after Easter, and the intention of hold- 
ing it seemed to some very indignant people to mark that 
wholehearted return to London's evil practices on which 
the Devil had commented with so much satisfaction. It 
was postponed till 24 April, and then to the twenty-fifth, 
and as a result of the Middlesex magistrates" action took 
place without gaming tables and "other instruments of 

It is said that the first half of the eighteenth century, 
with its enlightenment, its optimism, its cult of happiness, 

42 The Lisbon Earthquake 

and its content with the status quo, was a fortunate age, 
so much so that it might be preferred to all other times 
in the past as the one in which a sensible man might 
elect to live. Referring to the positive stimulus of a new 
manner of thinking, Professor Willey has said that in the 
early and middle years of the century "the wealthy and 
educated of Europe must have enjoyed almost the nearest 
approach to earthly felicity ever known to man/' 10 and 
in England the reign of the first two Georges has been 
described by Professor Williams as an "oasis of tranquil- 
lity," "an age of stability in politics, in religion, in litera- 
ture, and in social observances/' 11 In that comfortable 
world it may have been the case that an earthquake was, 
except for the Day of Judgement, the most terrible thing 
that could happen to man, and from the story of the 
two London earthquakes of 1750 we see plainly what 
great alarm could be caused even by light shocks and 
no more than the fear of a greater earthquake to come. 
For, truly, an earthquake is a terrifying thing, even with- 
out a death-roll and destruction. Almost all the ordinary 
actions of our lives demand as an essential prerequisite 
that the ground should remain firm and motionless under 
our feet and beneath the foundations of our houses. The 
total overthrow of mental security that results from any 
perceptible indication that it will not do so is itself in 
the highest degree alarming; and if to this be added the 
unpredictable suddenness of the event, the instant con- 
sideration that one is powerless in its presence, and the 

10 Basil Willey: The Eighteenth Century Background, p. 44. London, 
1 9S3- n ^his subject see also p. 18:2 in/fa. 

11 Basil Williams: The Whig Supremacy, p. i, Oxford, 1939. 

London, 1750 43 

dreaded possibility of its recurrence, we can understand 
why there should be fright at even a mild tremor. 

From the first century to the present day men have 
felt much the same about an earthquake, 12 but for the 
ordinary people of the middle eighteenth century the spe- 
cial horror of the event was still the awful belief that an 
earthquake was a deliberate sign to them from a wrath- 
ful God. No attempt at a scientific explanation had as 
yet made an earthquake in the general consciousness an 
understandable happening, like a flood or a fire. Even an 
eclipse was still supernaturally awe-inspiring to many peo- 
ple. Stukeley said in his sermon at St. George's, Queen 

We saw not long ago, what an effect was produced 
by a solar eclipse, tho* it was expected long before. We 
had the prediction, and calculation about it in all our 
almanacs; yet there was an universal seriousness that 
followed it. All that morning, we could walk the streets, 
without hearing an oath, and the churches were full, in 
time of prayer. 13 

An earthquake remained therefore for the majority of 
people an event "instinct with deity/" terrible because of 
the holiness of God. If it aroused pity, sympathy, and 
charity towards those who suffered in such a disaster, it 
aroused also a violently emotional theological reckoning, 
expressed in hysterical repentance and agitated specula- 
tion about man's relation to God and about God's pur- 
pose for this world. The sinner stood sharply rebuked, and 

C Seneca: Natur. Quae$t, vi, i. 

18 William Stukeley; Philosophy of Earthquakes, p. 40. London, 1750. 

44 The Lisbon Earthquake 

terrified; the churches filled, and the parson had to chide 
and comfort his congregation. That was the result of two 
light shocks of 1750, And the religious apprehensions of 
the people and the concern of the clergy were also dom- 
inant emotions when in the second half of November 1755 
the terrible news arrived in London that on the first day 
o the month the city of Lisbon had been destroyed by 
a great earthquake with enormous loss of life. 

Chapter Two 


.he Lisbon earthquake lasted about ten minutes. 
It began about 9:30 A.M. on All Saints' Day, Saturday, 
i November 1755, ^^ ave ^ e town three distinct shocks 
separated by intervals of about a minute. The first alarm 
was a rumbling noise that many people said sounded 
like that of exceptionally heavy traffic in an adjacent 
street, and this was sufficient to cause great alarm and 
make the buildings tremble; then there was a brief pause, 
and a devastating shock followed, lasting over two min- 
utes, that brought down roofs, walls, and faades of 
churches, palaces, and houses and shops in a dreadful 
deafening roar of destruction. Close on this came a third 
trembling to complete the disaster, and then a dark cloud 
of suffocating dust settled fog-like on the ruins of the 
city. It had been a clear, bright morning, but in a few 
moments the day turned into the frightening darkness of 
night, and when the dust began to settle ten or fifteen 
minutes later and people began to crawl about in the 
wreckage, it was seen that fires had broken out in sev- 
eral parts of the shattered town and threatened the city 


46 The Lisbon Earthquake 

with a huge consuming conflagration; and then as these 
fires grew there occurred a dreadful event on the water- 
front about an hour after the first triple shock; for the 
waters of the Tagus rocked and rose menacingly, and then 
poured in three great towering waves over its banks, 
breaking with their mightiest impact on the shore be- 
tween the Alcantara docks and the Terreiro do Pago. 

To make worse this cruel day in which so many un- 
fortunate people were crushed to death, burnt to death, 
or drowned, the earthquake was followed by several after- 
shocks, which were generally taken to be warnings that 
an even more awful disaster might at any minute com- 
plete the destruction of the town. In fact, they were not, 
it seems, very serious quakes, but one of them that hap- 
pened about 11 A.M., just before the breaking of the seis- 
mic waves over the Lisbon quays and foreshore, did heavy 
damage in the western town, shattering the Church of 
Santa Catarina on the hill close to the river and bring- 
ing down the east end of the Church of S3o Paulo, where 
a large number of refugees lost their lives. There was 
also a frightening after-shock about noon, felt sharply in 
northern Lisbon; but the principal ruin of the famous city 
was the work of the triple quake before 10 A.M. 

The Lisbon earthquake, if measured by the destruction 
caused and its death-roll, was not one of the greatest dis- 
asters of its kind that have ever happened. India, China, 
and Japan have experienced earthquakes much more ter- 
rible, for example the dreadful Kwanto earthquake of 
1923 that came near to destroying the whole of Tokyo 
and Yokohama and killed one hundred thousand people; 
but die earthquake of i November 1755 was nevertheless 
a colossal seismic disturbance that was felt over so large 

The Lisbon Earthquake 47 

an area that it caused general alarm and astonishment 
and a great output of scientific speculation. It shook, for 
the most part severely, the whole south-west corner of 
Portugal, doing great damage to Setiibal and Sdcavem, 
and in the southern coast of the Algarve the towns of 
Lagos, Faro, and Tavira (Fig. i). There was also a tre- 
mendous earthquake in North Africa in the area of Fez 
and Mequinez, where the destruction was catastrophic 
and there was a heavy loss of life; less severely it was 
felt as far away as Algiers on the African coast, and all 
over south-west Spain and Portugal from Coimbra to Se- 
ville and C&diz; outside that area it was felt at many 
other places in central and southern Spain from Madrid 
to Granada, Guadix, M dlaga, and Gibraltar. It caused no- 
ticeable shocks in northern Spain, and in France certainly 
as far as Bordeaux, and probably farther north (Fig. 2). 
Evidence of the full extent of the earthquake is unsatis- 
factory; but shocks were reported at places like Lyons 
and Strasbourg and in Switzerland and North Italy, and 
also in Normandy and Brittany and the Scilly Islands. It 
was said, probably erroneously, to have been felt in Der- 
byshire and in Scotland. The sea-waves caused by the 
earthquake certainly reached England and Ireland, where 
they were recorded about 2 P.M., and they reached the 
West Indies about 6 P.M. Almost all over Europe, includ- 
ing Scandinavia, the water in rivers, canals, lakes, and 
ponds and springs was seen to be suddenly disturbed or 
to rise and fall in an abnormal manner. 

But the attention of the whole of the relevant civilized 
world was focused on the ruined capital of Portugal. Lis- 
bon is not an easy place to describe to those who have 


10 20 

Fig. i. The earthquake area: Portugal 

The Lisbon Earthquake 


tOO WO 300 

Fig. 2. The earthquake area: Peninsula and North Africa 

never seen the city, and an uncontoured map is a poor 
guide; for, apart from a fine broad axis of level or gently 
sloping ground, Lisbon is bumpily and abruptly hilly, so 
much so that the extremely steep slopes that sometimes 
face the visitor when trying to make his way from the 
lower city either to the east or to the west are among 
the town's unforgettable features. The Cidade Baixa is, 

50 The Lisbon Earthquake 

however, flat from the Tagus shore to the top of the Ros- 
sio Square, and beyond this the Avenida, running in a 
south-east to north-west direction from the Restauradores, 
rises gradually towards the Praga do Poinbal and the Par- 
que Eduardo VII, which leads up to a level ridge of much 
higher ground; but on each side of the Cidade Baixa are 
tall cliffs of houses and gardens, bordering the hilly lateral 
districts, Lisboa oriental and Lisboa occidental, which are 
themselves broken up into steep-sided promontories, small 
plateaus, and deep valleys, so that Lisbon, seen from its 
famous miradoufos (viewpoints), such as the Castle or 
Graga on the eastern heights, or die Alameda de Sao 
Pedro de Alcantara on the western ridge, appears as a 
city with a low-lying central area that is set in an en- 
compassing cup-like frame of broken hilly country, now 
as crowded with buildings as the lower town itself, 

Lisbon was not, before the earthquake, a city of great 
architectural beauty in plan or style, and apart from a 
large open space by the river, flanked by the Royal Pal- 
ace (PL II) and government buildings, it must have had 
a jumbled partly medieval appearance, very pleasant with 
its handsome water-front with biggish ships in dock al- 
most under the palace windows, and rising behind this 
great square an agreeable forest of towers and spires, evi- 
dence of the fact that most of the important buildings in 
Lisbon were churches or convents. It was not a very large 
city, but it had over forty parish churches, several non- 
parochial churches, and about ninety convents. Writing 
twenty-five years before the great earthquake, a French 
observer said it was dirty and not lit at night, but his pic- 
ture is nevertheless of a charming city; for lie found much 
to admire. Not only the palaces and churches; lie said 

The Lisbon Earthquake 51 

the fish-market was the best in the world, and the meat- 
market, he observed, was spotlessly clean and lined with 
the famous azulejos (glazed tiles) of the country; both 
these two buildings were on the front, the meat-market 
in the palace square, the Terreiro do Pago. He observed 
that the chief building material used in the palaces and 
bigger houses was a marble that cracked a great deal and 
had often to be patched up with mastic; this pretty pink- 
ish stone can still be seen in quantities, for in spite of its 
cracks it is very good building material. 

Appearance apart, the most important thing about Lis- 
bon was that it was staggeringly rich, rich in the almost 
fabulous contents of its palaces and churches, rich in the 
great stores of bullion and jewels and costly merchandise 
in its wharves and business premises, rich in its tremen- 
dous commercial importance. Portugal, the country, was 
not rich: for its finances were badly run and the extrav- 
agances of Joao V (1706-50) were of the kind that would 
exhaust even Eldorado; moreover, the very powerful Brit- 
ish Factory in Lisbon had a grip on Portuguese com- 
merce and Brazilian gold that the Portuguese had already 
begun to resent. But Lisbon itself was justly famous for 
its wealth, and because of its commercial activity it was 
one of the best-known cities in the world. Protestant vis- 
itors and traders, particularly the English and the Ger- 
mans who did most of the business in the town, also knew 
Lisbon as a city of the Inquisition, and this influential sec- 
tion of the outside world knew much more about autos- 
da-fe in Lisbon than in Spain; they also knew a great 
deal about what was called the superstitious idolatry of 
the Lisbon people. Wealth, the Inquisition, and the wor- 
ship of images: to an appreciably large section of the 

52 The Lisbon Earthquake 

outside world Lisbon was famous for these three things. 
Other Latin countries were not likely to object to the 
exuberant religious observances of devout Portuguese; but 
the Portuguese were not on very good terms with France, 
were traditionally suspicious of Spain, and not unreserv- 
edly devoted to the Vatican. At the time of the earth- 
quake Portugal was an aloof, proud, happy, spendthrift 
country, forced to buy things that it should itself have 
produced, and slipping fast into financial dependence on 
London and Hamburg. 

The amount of damage done to Lisbon by the earth- 
quake on i November was very great. Some of the finest 
buildings in the city were in the greater part ruined and 
hundreds of the smaller houses and shops were completely 
destroyed. Observers in ships on the Tagus and on the 
higher ground round Lisbon talk about the city seeming 
to sway like com in the wind before the avalanches of 
descending masonry hid the ruins under a cloud of dust. 
In the huge basilica, So Vicente do Fora, the priests in 
the choir, on reaching the words of the introit Gaudeamus 
omnes in Deo, said that they felt the great grey marble 
church suddenly rock and sway like an unsteady ship at 

The area of severe shock that included Lisbon, as 
mapped by Pereira de Sousa (see Bibliography, p. 47), 
extended along the north shore of the Tagus at the Lis- 
bon bend from a point close to the present Santos sta- 
tion on the Cascais line to Bra<jo de Prata, half-way be- 
tween Lisbon and S&cavem, and is a belt of country six 
or seven miles long extending inland to a depth of about 
one and a half miles. Inside this area there were clis* 

The Lisbon Earthquake 53 

tricts in which the shocks were of greater intensity and 
did more damage than elsewhere. Pereira de Sousa used 
a modified Mercalli scale in order to measure the effects 
of the earthquake. IX denotes bad damage, churches 
wrecked but repairable, houses totally ruined or rendered 
uninhabitable, and casualties light; X represents very bad 
damage, churches so ruined that they had to be com- 
pletely rebuilt, cracked ground and landslides, and heavy 
casualties. He was thus able to give a useful, though only 
approximate, indication of the state of affairs in Lisbon. 
It seems that damage was very severe (X) all along the 
Tagus shore from (using modern landmarks) the Pracja 
de D. Luis and the Cais do Sodre to the Museu de Artil- 
haria; the western boundary of this heavy damage lay 
along the north-south line of the Rua de O S6culo that 
descends from the little plateau of the Praga do Principe 
Real, rises up to the parish church of Nossa Senhora das 
Merces, which was not seriously ruined, and then goes 
down into the Calgada do Combro, across which the line 
continues up the steps to the Santa Catarina hill and then 
down to the shore west of the old Mint, a building that 
also escaped heavy damage. The central area of devasta- 
tion on this same scale (X) extended in a north-south di- 
rection from the top of Rossio to the Tagus, westwards 
nearly to the line of the Rua do Alecrim and the Rua da 
Misericordia, and eastwards to the Rua dos Douradores. 
In eastern Lisbon there were two areas of major ruin, 
one the castle hill and its southern slopes as far as the 
Igreja da S^ (the Cathedral, then known as the Basilica 
de Santa Maria) and then down the hill to the Cais de 
Santar<m; the other the high ground on which stand 
Graa and So Vicente de Fora with its southern and 

54 The Lisbon Earthquake 

eastern slopes. The earthquake was also felt on this same 

heavy scale round the Campo dos Martires, and farther 
to the north-east on the hill of Nossa Senhora de Penha 
de Frana. 

The damage was on the lower scale (IX) on the west- 
ern slope of the Castle hill above the Rua da Madalena 
in a belt that curves round eastwards past and including 
the S6 1 and down to the Igreja da Conceicao Velha, 
which preserves the elaborate ManueMne (sixteenth cen- 
tury) portico of the wrecked Misericordia Church for- 
merly on the site. The damage was also less severe on the 
east slope of the Castle hill, where much of the Alfama 
district to a great extent escaped both earthquake and 
fire. In western Lisbon there was another area marked at 
scale IX which ran southwards from Sao Roque, includ- 
ing the Rua da Misericordia, the Praga de Camoes, and 
the Rua de Alecrim, 

The fire greatly increased the destruction begun by the 
earthquake. The Royal Palace and the magnificent new 
Opera House, completed in March of this same year, 
many of the government offices, and the fantastically 
splendid Patriarchal Church, might all have survived with 
not a great deal of harm done if the fire had not con- 
sumed them, and this is also true of many other notable 
buildings and churches; but subsequent disaster does not 
alter the fact that the earthquake alone did enormous 

1 The engraving by Le Bas of the Igrcfa da S$ after the earthquake 
shows an almost complete ruin, but these prints (sec PL IV) are un- 
trustworthy, and Pereira de Sousa thought that structurally it was not 

so seriously wrecked as this picture suggests; he therefore Includes the 
S< in a Scale IX area. The Cathedral was burnt out in the fire, and tho 
conflicting accounts of what actually happened to this building on i 
November 1755 show how difficult it is to measure the effect of the 

earthquake on that day by a modern scale of seismic intensity. 

The Lisbon Earthquake 55 

damage and killed a tragically large number of people. 
Over twenty parish churches were ruined; many palaces 
and fine houses, and some of the largest convents were 
wrecked before the fire completed their destruction; the 
home of the Inquisition at the top of the Rossio Square 
was tumbled to the ground; the Castle and Santa Cruz 
do Castelo suffered heavily. But the earthquake's main 
damage was done to the ordinary houses and the rows 
of shops. Right through central Lisbon and on the flank- 
ing slopes these lesser buildings were for the most part 
shattered beyond recovery. 

This terrible fire, fanned by a north-east wind, burnt 
strongly and was not finally extinguished until nearly a 
week after the earthquake; it gutted the whole of the 
central, low-lying part of the city and also much of the 
town on the adjacent hill-slopes. The contemporary ac- 
counts say it started almost at once in various parts of 
the ruins, for example in the Carmo and the Trindade 
convents, and also in the palace of the Marques de Lou- 
rigal in the Largo da Anunciada on the east side of the 
Avenida; but it quickly became a general conflagration, 
spreading from the top of Rossio towards the river, and 
also over the western and southern slopes of the Castle 
hill, and, on the other side of the Cidade Baixa, right 
over the Carmo ridge down to the Rua do Alecrim and 
beyond this up to the top of the hill on which stands the 
Chagas Church. Taking a line along the shore of about 
a mile from the Church of Sao Paulo near the Cais do 
Sodr6 station to the east end of the Rua Cais de Santa- 
rem, the fire burnt up the whole of central Lisbon north 
of it, on the west up to, though not including, Sao Roque, 
in the centre up to the top of Rossio, and on the east 

56 The Lisbon Earthquake 

right up to the southern wards of the Castle (c PL V). 
It was as savage a gutting of the heart of a city as can 
be found anywhere in the previous history of Europe, 
and after this ferocious blaze had done its work the 
richest and most thickly populated district of Lisbon was 
a charred desert of smoking ruins with the dead bodies 
of hundreds of the inhabitants lying beneath the ashes 
and cinders of their homes. 

It was this fire that led to the heaviest loss of the city's 
material wealth, much of which might otherwise have 
been recovered from the earthquake ruins; but the flames 
spared little or nothing of the pictures, furniture, tapes- 
tries, and plate in the churches and in the palaces and 
great houses, or of the great libraries, or of the vast stocks 
of merchandise in the shops, where die losses of jewel- 
lery, plate, and silks were said to be, and no doubt were, 
enormous. Some of the merchants in the Rua Nova dos 
Mercadores and the Rua da Confeitaria dragged what 
they could of their goods out of their wrecked premises 
after the earthquake and began to organize salvage dumps 
in the Terreiro do Pao, but later on the fire reached the 
great square and burnt the whole lot. The losses in goods 
suffered by the foreign traders were estimated at 48,000,- 
ooo Spanish dollars (about 12,000,000 sterling), of 
which 32,000,000 was the British share; next in the list 
come the Hamburg merchants whose losses were esti- 
mated at 8,ooo 3 ooo dollars. 

The palace of the Marquds de Louri^al stood well clear 
to the north of the main area of the fire; but the rich 
contents of his home, all destroyed, show the kind of 
thing this loss of property meant: two hundred pictures, 
including works by Titian, Correggio and Rubens, a li- 

The Lisbon Earthquake 57 

brary of eighteen thousand printed books, one thousand 
manuscripts, including a history written by the Emperor 
Charles V in his own hand, a herbal formerly belonging 
to King Matthias Hunyadi (1440-90) of Hungary, a huge 
family archive, and a great collection of maps and charts 
relating to the Portuguese voyages of discovery and colo- 
nization in the East and in the New World. It is said that 
seventy thousand books perished in the burning of the 
King's palace in the north-west corner of the present Ter- 
reiro do Pago; the Bragana archive was burnt in the 
Palacio dos Duques de Braganga at the bottom of the 
Rua Antonio Maria Cordoso, and a valuable library of 
Marian literature, including many incunables, was de- 
stroyed in the Oratory on the site of the Grandes Arma- 
zens at the east end of the Chiado at the crossing of the 
Rua do Carmo and the Rua Nova do Almada; the fire 
also burnt another fine library, carefully catalogued and 
open for public use, in the convent of the Dominicans at 
the north-east corner of the Rossio Square. 

All descriptions of the earthquake by those who were 
near the shore or in boats on the Tagus tell with horror 
of the great waves that suddenly came pouring over the 
north shore at about eleven o'clock; for ships were torn 
from their anchors, crashed against each other and against 
the quays, and all the light shore structures were washed 
away. The seismic waves started out at sea and, coming 
in towards Lisbon from the south-west, were to some ex- 
tent resisted at the river bar; but even so they were for- 
midable enough, fifteen to twenty feet high, it was said, 
and three times they flung themselves at the whole six 
miles of river-coast from Lisbon to the mouth of the Ta- 
gus, as also along the south-facing coast to Cascais and 

58 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Cabo Raso, and against the west coast at least as far as 
Ericeira. It seems, however, that In their fullest violence 
they struck against the low-lying Sao Paulo district of Lis- 
bon and the Terreiro do Pago, and here their force was 
such that they greatly damaged the Alfdndega buildings 
(Customs House) and completed the destruction of the 
fine marble-faced Cais de Pedra in front of the Alfn- 
dega, a magnificent new quay built by Joao V, the stones 
of which had already been loosened and partly dislodged 
by the earthquake. 2 Here a large number of people, prob- 
ably over a hundred, who had taken refuge on what 
seemed to be a safe open place convenient for escape 
across the river, were washed away and drowned, as many 
other people were drowned up and down the coast. The 
waters, however, had spent their force with the third 
wave, and gradually the river became quiet. Boats had 
begun again to cross the Tagus with refugees by about 
two o'clock in the afternoon. 

No one will ever know the number of people who lost 
their lives in the Lisbon earthquake. First accounts un- 
derstandably gave wildly exaggerated estimates, and it 
was extremely difficult to replace the early guesses by 
convincing official statistics. The confusion caused by the 
frantic evacuation of the ruined area of the city made 
an immediate worth-while roll-call impossible, for nobody 
could tell whether a missing person was lying dead un- 
der the rubble or had escaped into the suburbs or the 

2 The commonly repeated story that the Cais tie Pedro, was suddenly 
swallowed up in an earthquake chasm was disproved by Portuguese en- 
gineers shortly after the earthquake. See Morciru de Mcndonv il lllstorfa 
Universal dos Terremotos, p. 134, and for modern opinion on, this point, 

Harry Fielding Reid, Bull. Seisniological Society of America, xv, 2 (June 
PP- 54-55- 

The Lisbon Earthquake 59 

country; there was no means of ascertaining the numbers 
of lodgers and strangers in the town, and most of the 
civic records on which some sort of census could be based 
had been burnt. The first attempt to count the casualties 
was a questionnaire sent out to the parish priests through- 
out the country, but the returns are only available for 
certain country districts, and those for Lisbon, now miss- 
ing, are said to have been made too soon; for there had 
not been time to trace refugees and to let the people set- 
tle down in the camps on the outskirts of the ruins so 
that they could be asked about the fate of their families 
and their friends. What seem to be the best and most 
careful estimates agree that probably between ten thou- 
sand to fifteen thousand people lost their lives in Lisbon 
out of a population, in the neighbourhood of 275,000, and 
a very sensible historian of the earthquake, Joachim Jos 6 
Moreira de Mendonga, thought that not more than five 
thousand people were killed on i November, the casual- 
ties being doubled or trebled during the course of the 
month. A large number of the inmates, it is said as many 
as four hundred, were burnt to death in the Hospital 
Real, and a great many were killed in the churches, not 
only because of the big attendances at the morning Masses 
on All Saints* Day, but because those that were not com- 
pletely ruined were used for sheltering the wounded and 
as places of refuge before they were burnt out. 

The figures given in many accounts and often quoted 
are not accurate, but some of the estimates are a measure 
of the terror of the day. It was said that not one hundred 
but nine hundred people lost their lives when the great 
waves poured down on the Cais de Pedra and the Alf 4n- 
dega do Jardim do Tabaco behind it in the Terreiro do 

60 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Pago; six hundred people are said to have been crushed 
to death in the church of the Franciscan convent and 
twenty of the monks; four hundred were reported to have 
been killed in the church of the Convento de Santa Trin- 
dade; three hundred out of eight hundred morning com- 
municants were believed to have died in the church of 
the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Penha de Frana, and 
137 people were burnt to death in the parish church of 
Santa Maria Madalena. The last figure is probably cor- 
rect, the others guesses that may be in need of whole- 
sale cutting. A statement, for instance, that two hundred 
people perished in the Oratory was quickly corrected to 
fifty by one of the Fathers (see p. 91 ) : the dreadful events 
in the parish church of S5o Paulo killed by earthquake 
and fire about a hundred persons, and not six hundred, 
as rumour said. But the earthquake was horrible and in- 
discriminately murderous; thousands of people were killed 
by the collapsing city and hundreds were burnt to death 
in the ghastly conflagration that followed. 

Of the swarming population of monks, friars, and nuns 
in Lisbon about two hundred were killed in the earth- 
quake. There was no very serious loss of life among the 
foreign commercial population in Lisbon. The British Fac- 
tory did not lose many of its members, and the total 
British killed, including some unfortunate casualties of 
whom almost nothing was known but their names, came 
to seventy-seven. Of these forty-nine were women. There 
were very few casualties among the Portuguese nobility 
and persons of distinction, probably less than twenty in 
all, and in the whole of this great disaster that struck so 
hard at Portugal and Spain only two deaths have become 
memorable, in Lisbon that of the Spanish Ambassador, 

The Lisbon Earthquake 61 

the Conde de Peralda, who was killed escaping from the 
front door of his embassy, and, in Cadiz, that of the young 
Racine, great-grandson of the famous dramatist. 

The descriptions of the misery and suffering of the un- 
happy people of Lisbon on i November and the follow- 
ing days are the common tales told of such disasters; but 
they do not seem less terrible because of that. There are 
accounts of folk creeping out of the wreckage, bleeding 
and with broken limbs, stumbling about in search of the 
rest of their family, of cries for help, of screaming chil- 
dren, and of the frantic agonies of the wounded animals, 
mules, horses, and dogs; of suicidal attempts to escape 
from the upper stories of partly wrecked houses; of ob- 
stinate people who could not be persuaded to seek safety 
and had to be abandoned; of little groups of terrified peo- 
ple forming together and setting off on aimless expedi- 
tions, turning about whenever some rumour of a safe 
place reached them or whenever they were threatened 
by fire or collapsing walls; tales of bolting into churches, 
dossing down in the squares, and also of the great per- 
sistent exodus to the open country. Tales also of great 
bravery and resignation shown by the sufferers. 

The first night after the earthquake was terrible, for 
now the roaring flames had a firm grip on the town, and 
there was still a pitiful background noise of groans and 
cries and the howling of dogs. The dreadful waves had 
done terrible damage, and no one knew whether it was 
safe to be near the river; fires and crashing walls were 
blocking some of the main roads leading to the country; 
most of the narrow lanes, alleys, and steps between the 
buildings on the hill-slopes were impassable; thieves and 
galley slaves had escaped from the prisons and already 

62 The Lisbon Earthquake 

started robbing the dead and wounded, and plundering 
in the ruins; a rumour that the powder magazine in the 
Castle was at any minute likely to blow up, which had 
been widely spread during the day, was still tormenting 
those who knew of the possibility. The scenes in the big 
squares, especially Rossio and the Terreiro do Pago, must 
have been truly appalling. In Rossio the palace of the 
Inquisition, Sao Domingos and the adjacent Ennida of 
Nossa Senhora de Escada were in ruins, and fires were 
still burning s on all sides and in the skeletons of the great 
convents on the western hill; the roads leading out of it 
from the south side were choked with ruins and smashed 
traffic; and in the square the miserable sick inmates of 
the burning Hospital Real had been dumped down, ex- 
posed and helpless, while little groups of the refugees 
from the surrounding buildings camped there with their 
wounded in discomfort and dread. And among them all 
the time moved priests, confessing and giving absolution. 4 
Of all the horrors of the Lisbon earthquake no horror was 
worse than the supreme terror of dying unconfcsscd and 

The great exodus from the central area of the city be- 
gan at once, and was joined by crowds of people from 
the built-up areas on the perimeter of the wrecked part 

8 The fires in Sao Domingos and the hospital were at their height 
about 3 P.M. 

4 This caused alarm to one or two Protestant casualties. The miserable 

young Mr, Chase, act, 26, helpless from his injuries* was in the Terreiro 
do Pac.o, and at the approach of priests pretended to be unconscious In 
case the zealous papists might deem it meritorious to burn a heretic in 
the approaching flames. One English clergy man, unable to spouk Portu- 
guese, found himself hemmed in by a crowd and baptized by Portuguese 

The Lisbon Earthquake 63 

of the town. It was in part a sensible and in part a dis- 
graceful flight. The contemporary accounts of the earth- 
quake say bluntly that there was a desperate scramble to 
get out of Lisbon by frightened mobs of hysterical peo- 
ple, clutching crucifixes and images of saints, and bits and 
scraps of their belongings, all trying to reach open coun- 
try. Almost every section of the population was repre- 
sented among the refugees. For example the greater part 
of the garrison of the Casa da Moeda (the Mint) near 
the Cais do Sodre, in which was a big store of newly ar- 
rived gold from Brazil, joined in the flight, only a young 
lieutenant and four soldiers having the courage to remain 
at their posts and protect the building as best they could 
from fire and from robbers. Many writers have described 
the terrified streams of people trying to get away from 
Lisbon and the misery and suffering of the flight. Our 
example here, however, shall be the comparatively un- 
sensational adventures of Father Manuel Portal of the 
Oratory, quoted from a manuscript source by Pereira de 

For this holy man the day of i November began un- 
happily as he had had a bad dream during the night, in 
which, he says, there were two earthquake shocks, no- 
ticed also by other people. He awoke greatly distressed, 
for he had been warned in his dream that he would never 
see again the beloved crucifix on the wall of his cell, and 
he attended Mass in a state of penitent alarm. Then came 
the great earthquake, and he found himself partly buried 
in the wreckage of one of the corridors of the convent; 
eventually he was with some difficulty extricated by his 
comrades, and when he was set free, though he was badly 
injured as one of his legs had been crushed, he did his 

64 The Lisbon Earthquake 

best to minister to those of his brethren who were also 
in distress, hearing their confessions and giving them ab- 
solution, and in turn himself confessing and receiving ab- 
solution. He could not walk properly and had to get two 
men to support him, but with their help he struggled 
over the rubble and dead bodies out of the convent into 
the Rua das Portas de Santa Catarina (the present Rua 
Garrett); there he found one of the Oratory Fathers 
preaching to the people who had collected in the street, 
and a little farther on, looking north up the steep Cal- 
ada do Sacramento, he saw a cousin of his, a priest of 
the Church of the Santissimo Sacramento, cloakless and 
holding up a crucifix that he had rescued from the 
church's ruins, also exhorting passers-by and giving ab- 
solution. This kind man told the maimed Portal to take 
shelter in his house, but he refused and insisted on help- 
ing his cousin minister to the people; then he moved on 
again, leaving the wrecked church and the huge burning 
ruin of the Carmo behind him, picking his way westwards 
and northwards to the gate of a large and partly ruined 
palace close to the wrecked Convent of the Trinclade. 
Here again he stopped to minister to those of the es- 
caped occupants who were collected outside the build- 
ing, and when he tried to proceed he found the narrow 
road leading up to the Trindade blocked with debris, so 
that he had to turn and go downhill to the Italian Church 
of Nossa Senhora do Loreto (at the west end of the Rua 
Garrett on the north side), which was only very slightly 

His intention now was to get to the Neeessidades, 
where the Oratory still maintained its old convent; but 
he could find no usable road leading to the west or sou tin- 

The Lisbon Earthquake 65 

west, so he changed his mind and decided to journey 
northwards to their quinta of the Vale do Pereiro in the 
upper Cotovia, a short distance beyond the Rato in the 
Campolide direction. 5 He therefore struggled up the Rua 
Larga de Sao Roque and at last reached the Convent of 
Sao Pedro de Alcantara, which he found in ruins, and at 
this point his strength began to fail. He had to rest and 
it was with great difficulty that his friends got him to 
move on, though he had now reached level ground and 
had a downhill walk to the Rato in front of him. When, 
a little farther on, he came to the little plateau, now the 
Praga do Principe Real, then a wilderness dominated by 
the ruins of the Conde de Tarouca's unfinished palace, he 
collapsed and had to be put on a pack-horse; but this 
did not end the miseries of his escape, for just as he came 
to the silk factory on the south side of the Rato there 
was another alarming earthquake, and the terrified crowds 
all around him, suddenly began to press backwards in the 
direction of Lisbon, jostling the poor Father and clamour- 
ing for words of comfort and absolution, which he gave 
them willingly and as best he could. When he had freed 
himself, he had still a quarter of a mile to go before he 
got to the outer and higher part of the quinta, and when 
at last he reached it, he was put in a chair out in the 
open, wrapped round with a cloak, and left; and while 
he was sitting there he witnessed the arrival in a sedan 
of the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, one of the Oratory's 
most distinguished refugee-guests. At night a little shelter 

5 A quinta is a country estate with a residence and farm-buildings, 
vineyards, orchards, vegetable-garden, etc. The residence of the Oratory 
quinta was near the junction between the present Rua de Sao Felipe 

Neri and the Rua de Atilharia I. 

66 The Lisbon Earthquake 

of some sort was made for him, but he had to give this 

up to another Father and camp under a tree. Eventually 
he was discovered by friends and removed to a hut in 

the southern part of the quinta, where the wretched man 
remained for some days, very ill and in great discomfort. 

The Cidade Baixa was not deserted, though few peo- 
ple dared to live in the houses that were still serviceable 
as dwellings. Some, however, refused to leave the neigh- 
bourhood of their destroyed houses and places of busi- 
ness, and some were too poor to afford to build a hut 
and live in the suburban camps; the parish priests stuck 
to their posts, and some members of the religious orders 
insisted on staying on in the ruins of their convents; more- 
over, useful men were soon made to return to the de- 
stroyed part of the town, particularly technicians and 
craftsmen who could help in the work of reconstruction. 
Rossio, Terreiro do Pao, and the Praa da Ribeira were 
crowded with temporary offices and shops, and there was 
a constant coming and going of the military called in to 
maintain order and help with the burying of the dead, 
and also of engineers and government officials. Stalls were 
set up for selling food and other necessities, and a town 
life of a kind went on. But the population had to a con- 
siderable extent shifted, and there were now strange new 
settlements in the open spaces east and west of the de- 
stroyed area, and on the high ground encircling the city. 
The Oratory quinta at Cotovia, to which Manuel Portal 
had escaped, and the surrounding properties formed one 
of these encampments, and the parish of Santa Isabel in 
which it was situated is said to have had a refugee pop- 

The Lisbon Earthquake 67 

ulation of twenty-five thousand. 6 The Campo de Ourique, 
the Campo de Santa Ana, the Campo Grande, the Campo 
Pequeno, and the Campo de Santa Barbara in the Castle, 
were also filled by little towns of tents and huts; so also 
the Estrela district in the west and the Campo de Santa 
Clara on the east side of the town were full of squatters. 
Right away to the west there were large encampments 
around Nossa Senhora da Ajuda and at Belem. It was 
estimated that about nine thousand wooden buildings 
were put up during the first six months after the quake, 
a fine achievement, for wood was very scarce indeed in 
Lisbon and much of it had to be brought to the city for 
this special purpose. 

The King and the royal family were staying, when the 
earthquake happened, at a royal residence in Belein, but 
they moved at once into a suite of tents in an open space 
close at hand, and there they stayed for nine months un- 
til a big quadrangular wooden lodging, with twenty-five 
windows a side, had been erected for them on the Ajuda 
hill, north of Belem where the great stone palace, built 
in the early nineteenth century, now stands. His minister 
Pombal (see p. 73) had a hutment lodging at Bel6m while 
the King was there; but he probably made use also of his 
house in the Rua de O Seculo near the parish church of 
Nossa Senhora das Merces, which, though on the fringe 
of a badly ruined area, seems to have been more or less 
undamaged. 7 The general desire was to get out of build- 
ings into tents or huts, and to sleep in the garden rather 
than indoors, even if one's home still stood safe and 

6 Matos Sequeira, Depois do Terremoto, x, 32, reduces the figure to 
"more than 6,ooo/* 

7 Pombal had also some newly built property in the parish of Sao 
Juliao in the Cidade Baixa that escaped damage. 

68 The Lisbon Earthquake 

sound, and for this reason the great camps on the hig! 
and open places round the city were for a long time 
crowded communities, in spite of the initial discomfort 
and squalor of the miserable bivouacs of matting, planks, 
and sail-cloth under which many of the squatters spent 
their first few nights. 

The most remarkable concourse of these campers was 
that in and around the quinta of the Oratory in Cotovia. 
The company included the Patriarch and his staff, some 
members of the nobility, and a number of nuns from the 
ruined Convento das Trinas do Rato which was close to 
the present Praga do Rato. The farm and vineyards of 
the quinta suffered badly, but in a little while an ordered 
settlement of wooden huts was established, and some of 
these, built for nobles and high officials, began to be quite 
luxurious bungalows with glass windows and tapestry 
hangings and good domestic offices. The Patriarch built 
a properly furnished chapel, and the Oratory also built 
themselves decent wooden premises with a small church. 
The Patriarch made a daily distribution of food and en- 
tertained charitably on a very large scale. The clergy 
from the Patriarchal Church had been transferred to the 
Ermida of Slo Joaquim and Santa Anna in Alcdntara; but 
they were frightened out of this by an earthquake on 21 
December; later on a very grand wooden church was 
made for them on what had been the Condc do Tarouca's 
property on the side of the road leading from Sao Iloque 
to the Rato. The Patriarch himself, after a year in the 
quinta of the Oratory, moved into the palace of the lately 
disgraced minister Diogo de Mendonga C6rte Real. The 
Marques de Louri$al, whose town palace had been burnt, 
also built a fine wooden house in this neighbourhood on 

The Lisbon Earthquake 69 

the Estrada do Rato, and before long most of the rich 
people in temporary lodgings were as comfortable as they 
could be under such circumstances and were behaving in 
an ostentatiously gay and cheerful manner. In fact, they 
were considered to be a little too high-spirited. The ladies 
began to go about in their prettiest and most expensive 
clothes, and in February 1756 the Patriarch thought it 
proper to correct this ostentation by forbidding them to 
wear coloured hats in church in place of the customary 
dark veils. 

It was inevitable that some imperturbable folk should 
begin to joke about the whole adventure, and mock in 
private the superstitious fears of the majority, for it 
seemed that God was persistently flouting the prayers 
of his devoted Portuguese worshippers; but that was not 
the common mood, and throughout Lisbon there was still 
a mood of anxiety. The dreadful thing was that the earth- 
quakes continued. They were mostly brief after-shocks 
that did no damage, but they kept hysterical fright alive 
and seemed to justify the predictions of the numerous 
prophets of woe who said that God had not yet com- 
pleted the punishment of the sinful city of Lisbon, It 
was alleged that there were nearly thirty earthquake 
shocks in the week after i November, and before the 
end of the year there were certainly some that caused 
very great alarm, a violent shock at 5:30 A.M. on 8 No- 
vember, three more shocks in the middle of the month, 
and a really thunderous quake, causing panic and evac- 
uation, in the early morning of 11 December. There was 
another earthquake that caused excessive alarm on 21 
December. "Will your Earth never be quiet?" asked Sir 
Benjamin Keene, the British Ambassador in Madrid, on 

yo The Lisbon Earthquake 

31 July 1756, in a letter to Castres, British Envoy in Lis- 
bon. In August 1756 it was said that there had been five 
hundred after-shocks since the dreadful day of i Novem- 
ber 1755. No wonder most of the Lisbon people remained 
wretchedly apprehensive; no wonder vehement orators 
pursued them with exhortations, scoldings, and threats; 
no wonder they believed that the anger of God against 
Lisbon had not been turned aside. Where was it all to 
stop? Who could find safety? What other sinful commu- 
nity was God going to punish next? No wonder that the 
clergy of many nations had to go up into their pulpits 
and answer as best they could the question that their 
suddenly serious congregations now asked in conscience- 
stricken alarm, "Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto 
this great city?" 

Chapter Three 


JLn his sensible little Commentary * on the Lisbon 
earthquake published in 1756, Ant6nio Pereira of the Or- 
atory (afterwards Ant6nio Pereira de Figueiredo) men- 
tioned four people who had greatly contributed to the 
restoration of order and confidence after the disaster. 
Monsenhor Sampaio of the Patriarchal Church, who 
worked so hard at burying dead bodies that he is be- 
lieved to have assisted personally at the interment of 240 
people; Dom Joao de Braganga, cousin of the King and 
younger brother of the Duque de Lafoes, who distin- 
guished himself in the rescue work without any regard 
to his own safety; the Duque de Lafoes himself, who did 
so much to preserve order and prevent looting, tirelessly 
devoting himself to his duties and neglecting sleep and 
meals in order to get on with his task; and finally the 
aged Patriarch, Cardinal Jos6 Manuel (1686-1758), who 
did his best to arrange that his clergy could continue to 
perform their spiritual and practical tasks. In 1758 in his 
much fuller account 2 of the earthquake, Joachim Jos6 

1 p. 90 infra. 2 p. 247 infra. 


J2 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Moreira de Mendonya praised the same four distinguished 
people, mentioned the signal generosity of the three Pal- 
hava princes, illegitimate sons of Joao V, 3 and the ad- 
mirable handling of the earthquake-crisis in general by 
King Jos4 assisted by his Secretary of State, Sebastiao 
Jos6 de Carvalho e Mello, a wise and active minister. 

In 1764 there was published a little potted history of 
all that had happened in Lisbon from the earthquake to 
the expulsion of the Jesuits/ also by Antonio Pereira de 
Figueiredo, and in it we read that everything written, or- 
dered, or done in the name of His Most Faithful Majesty 
in respect of burying the dead, restoring morale, collect- 
ing provisions, calling in troops, dealing with looting, pro- 
viding protection against African pirates, stopping and 
controlling refugees, maintaining a strict military disci- 
pline, protecting nuns, averting God's wrath, preserving 
the King's person, punishing traitors, suppressing Jesuits, 
restoring commerce, encouraging the arts, clearing the 
ruins, planning and rebuilding the city, all this, we arc 
told, was in the greater part due to the foresight, wis- 
dom, and authority of the Conde clc Oeiras. The Conde 
de Oeiras was the new title, created in 1759, f Sebastiao 
Jose de Carvalho e Mello, the future Marques do Pom- 
bal, a title conferred on him in 1770 (PL VI), 

That was the proper way to write about a great cite- 

8 O$ meninos de Paffiav8 t so called because they were brought tip in 
the Balhava palace, now the Spanish embassy, north of the city, close 
to the present Fcira Popular on the Benfiea road. They were officially 
recognized by King Jos as his brothers at the beginning of the earth- 
quake year, 

4 Rerum Lusitanarum Ephenwrides . . . , Lisbon, 3,761. And Didrio 
dos successor de Lisboa dcsdc o terremoto at& o exterminio do$ Jezu- 
itas* Traduzido do idiom a Latino por Mathias Pereira de Azevedo Pinto, 
Lisbon, 1766. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 73 

tator such as Pombal had by then become. He towered 
above everybody else in ability and authority, and no- 
body could any longer approach him in any distribution 
of credit. After a due lip-service to the King, he took it 
all. Moreover, some of those praised in 1756 for their 
distinguished services in the earthquake-crisis had disap- 
peared. The Patriarch, Jose Manuel, and the first Duque 
de Lafoes were dead. Pombal had exiled Dom Joao of 
Braganga, second Duke of Lafoes, who, after being made 
F.R.S. in London in 1757, was now in Austria; he had 
disgraced the two Palhava princes, Antonio and Jose, and 
the third, Caspar, the Archbishop of Braga, was living in 
a state of toadying apprehension. The dictator stood alone 
as the earthquake-hero. 

Pombal was born in 1699. His career as Dictator of 
Portugal lasted throughout the whole of the reign of Jose 
I, who became King in 1750 and died in 1777, and is a 
brilliant, startling, and sometimes lamentable and terrify- 
ing, chapter in the history of his country. When King 
Jos6 died his famous minister was disgraced and ended 
his days in exile in 1782 in a house in the market-square 
of the little town of Pombal between Coimbra and Leiria, 
from which he took his title. He was the son of a simple 
country squire, and though he was from the beginning a 
thruster, he was also a troublesome and touchy person, 
and he did not make any substantial advance in politics 
until he was thirty-nine years old. He owed his first con- 
nexions with the court to an uncle who was an official 
in the Patriarchal Church, but his career really began 
with his marriage to the widow of a nobleman and niece 
of the Conde de Arcos, a match strongly opposed by the 

74 The Lisbon Earthquake 

bride's family. Having inherited money and now attained 
a social position, he lived bravely and showily, aided in 
his political ambitions by an important relative, eleven 
years his senior, Marc Ant6nio de Azevedo Coutinho 
(1688-1750), whom in 1739 he succeeded as Minister 
Plenipotentiary in London. In 1745 he was sent on a 
mission to Vienna, where his first wife having died, he 
made another splendid match by marrying an Austrian 
lady of famous lineage, a union that was a lifelong hap- 
piness to him and also one that greatly increased his pres- 
tige in the Portuguese court, for Queen Maria Ana was 
an Austrian. He was stiU a climbing man, financially 
ruined because of his heavy Vienna expenses and angry 
at the loss of his London appointment as he had wanted 
to return to England to recover his losses; but when he 
was back in Portugal in 1749 he found he had two pow- 
erful friends in the Queen Regent, for Joo V was dying, 
and Coutinho, now Secretary of State, and on the acces- 
sion of Jos^ I he obtained a post in the Cabinet as Min- 
ister for Foreign Affairs and War. Very quickly he estab- 
lished himself as the dominant figure in, Portuguese poli- 
tics, and as quickly he made himself hated by a jealous 
group of noblemen whose prestige he flouted and whose 
formidable influence he had already begun to undermine. 
Then came the earthquake. 

The obsequious paragraph in Ant6nio Pereinus* little 
history of 1761 comes near enough to being a fair tribute 
to a man of exceptional ability, for there is so much to 
be said against Pombal, that this one thing at least should 
be left indisputably to his credit, namely that his bravery 
and common sense rescued ruined Lisbon, inspired its 
citizens with the courage that resolute leadership can, 

Men of Action and Men of Science 75 

give, and in a large measure prevented Ms country from 
suffering an appalling economic and social disaster. He 
was in undisputed command from the day of the earth- 
quake, and letters and dispatches written in Lisbon in the 
following days by foreigners reporting the terrible events 
contain sincere and admiring tributes to Senhor de Car- 
valho's firm handling of the situation. It is a well-known 
story that when the unhappy young King ( Jos6 was thirty- 
six ) in his first misery on learning the dreadful nature of 
the catastrophe asked despairingly what was to be done, 
Pombal replied: "Bury the dead and feed the living/' It 
is an apocryphal saying, and in anti-Pombal literature is 
attributed to the Duque de Aveiro or the Marques de 
Alorna; but it is so likely to be in some near form what 
Pombal really did say, so succinctly expresses the prac- 
tical measures he at once caused to be carried out, that 
it has rightly become immortal as a classic example of 
the blunt common sense of a man of action breaking 
roughly and abruptly through another man's mood of 
dithering emotional helplessness. 

In 1758 a handsome folio volume was published 6 in 
Lisbon containing the principal directives whereby Se- 
nhor de Carvalho had controlled the earthquake emer- 
gency and had restored order and confidence in Lisbon 
and throughout Portugal. It is fulsomely dedicated to 
King Jos6, who is extolled as the immensely brave and 
immensely wise saviour of his country, and it is a mag- 

G Memorias das principaes Providendas que se derdo no Terremoto, 
que padeceo a Corte de Lisboa no anno de 1775 . . . per Amador Pa- 
tricia de Lisboa. The author is said to be Francisco Jos< Freire ( 1719- 
73), later a distinguished poet and literary man, and, like Ant6nio Pe- 
reira, a member of the Oratory; both were in the Convento do Espirito 
Santo at the time of the earthquake. 

j6 The Lisbon Earthquake 

nificent book, of which Portugal may justly be proud; but 
the compiler remained discreetly anonymous, and it is 
really a monument to Pombal by Pombal, as noble as 
the big bronze medallion of himself that he caused to be 
fixed on the plinth of the great equestrian statue of King 
Jose in the Terreiro do Pago, which he unveiled in 1775, 
and as showy and impressive as the great twentieth-cen- 
tury marble monument to the dictator that now domi- 
nates the Avenida from its central position in the Praga 
do Pombal. Politically, Pombal did need a monument as 
early as 1758, for enemies, jealous of his power, had al- 
ready begun to intrigue against him, and even his meri- 
torious services at the time of the earthquake, of which 
in this book he pointedly reminded the Portuguese, even 
these had not erased the detestation with which his quick 
climb to power and the brutal ruthlessness of his methods 
of doing so were regarded by many of the nobles, while 
the Jesuits had already good reason for using their in- 
fluence in every possible way against him. But, even with 
this discreditable background, and in spite of the anti- 
Pombal judgement that his earthquake-administration was 
a series of belated measures desperately following a sit- 
uation beyond his control, no impartial person can read 
the Providencias without a warm respect for the strong 
realistic administration whereby Pombal did deal firmly 
with conditions dangerously liable to degenerate into a 
state of lawless panic. In a clearly expressed and con- 
sistent series of documents, beginning on the clay of the 
earthquake itself, Pombal is revealed handling with uu- 

6 The medallion was removed after Pombal's disgrace and the inten- 
tion was to destroy it; but the artist hid it and handcx! on the s<er<;t of 

Its whereabouts, so that it was possible for a Liberal government to re- 
place it in 1833. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 77 

ruffled determination one after another of the anxieties 
and crises inevitably attending a major disaster of this 

Nevertheless, it was really the Portuguese people who 
saved the situation, for the best of them behaved bravely 
and performed their duties calmly in the dangerous days 
of November 1755. Pombal could have achieved little in 
the earthquake-crisis if he had not been strongly and will- 
ingly supported, and a complete account of the events 
after the disaster would give credit to the invaluable serv- 
ices of many of the Portuguese whose parts in this ago- 
nizing drama may now seem to be only minor roles sup- 
porting the dominant performance of the chief actor. 
First, Dom Pedro de Bragana, Duque de Lafoes ( 1718- 
61), the Chief Justice, who was responsible for the civil 
government of the kingdom; next, the third Marques de 
Marialva, Dom Diogo de Noronha (1688-1761), Grand 
Master of the Horse, and responsible for the military gov- 
ernment; then, Fernao Telles da Silva, Marques de Ale- 
grete, Monteiro-M6r (King's Huntsman), President of the 
Senate, and responsible for the economic administration; T 
the second Marques de Abrantes, Commander-in-Chief, 
and many other high-ranking officers of the forces; then 
the members of the able and active Camara Municipal in 
Lisbon, who presided jealously over the interests of the 
citizens, even if it was necessary to oppose or criticize 
Pombars measures; then the specially appointed magis- 
trates of the twelve bairros, and the engineers and sur- 
veyors headed by Manuel de Maia (1680-1768), chief 
engineer and officer-in-charge of the Torre do Tombo, 

7 The first three names are somewhat coldly mentioned as the prin- 
cipal executive officials in the Providenclas, pp. 39-40. 

78 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Carlos Mardel, a senior engineer, and Eug6nio dos San- 
tos, names best known during the subsequent planning 
and building of the new Lisbon, though each did work 
which was as valuable in the first and worst days of the 

crisis. All these men, and there were many others, can 
be identified in action through the directives addressed 
to them; but there must have been also a heroic company 
of folk whose names do not figure with deserved em- 
phasis in the contemporary accounts of the earthquake. 

The part played by the Church does require proper 
honour because later events have, with some reason, made 
Pombal appear in history as a violently anti-clerical states- 
man who in the earthquake-period was driven to exas- 
peration by the obstruction and non-cooperation of cer- 
tain sections of the Lisbon clergy. We shall see in later 
chapters how bitter, and how understandable, was the 
conflict between him and the preachers who in his view 
exploited the earthquake in an alarmist and anti-social 
manner; but that quarrel must not spoil a tribute to the 
general body of the clergy whose conduct immediately 
after the earthquake was both helpful and heroic. 

The Cardinal Patriarch's conscientious direction of the 
Church has been fairly recorded, and also the magnif- 
icent work of the religious orders, particularly the Ora- 
tory Fathers, the Jesuits, the Benedictines, and the Austin 
Friars; but insufficient tribute has been paid to the or- 
dinary parish priests of the worst-damaged area of the 
city; for no one reading the earthquake-accounts can fail 
to be impressed by the bravery and devotion of these 
men who remained at their posts in conditions of great 
danger and terrifying confusion. They did their best to 
carry on their parochial duties ia whatever makeshift ac- 

Men of Action and Men of Science 79 

commodation they could contrive as close as possible to 
the ruins of their churches, and in huts and tents right 
among the ruins and the fires they stayed on duty where 
their people could find them and where in some form 
or other the accustomed worship could be maintained. 
They were present to act as the main agents in estab- 
lishing a roll-call after the disaster and to deal with the 
official inquiries about their surviving parishioners, the 
casualties, the number of the folk who had fled from 
the town. The action of these brave men is only briefly 
recorded, but in most cases their emergency measures are 
known. For example, the pdroco of Sao Juliao moved into 
the Terreiro do Pago and worked there for two years in 
a wooden cabin which for a time he shared with the 
parish priest of the burnt-out Santa Maria Madalena; the 
parishes of SS. Justa and Rufina and of Sao Nicolau had 
their headquarters in huts in the Rossio Square, where 
the Inquisition had also set up a temporary wooden of- 
fice; the pdroco of the ruined Church of Santo Cruz do 
Castello continued his ministry in a hut built in his church- 
yard, and the parish priest of the destroyed Church of 
Sao Pedro, south of the Castle hill, used for a time a ware- 
house on the river-side as his church. 

What Pombal had to do, and succeeded in doing, with 
all this strong support is, in brief summary, as follows. 
On the day after the earthquake he told the Duque 
de Lafoes to appoint the special magistrates mentioned 
above, one for each of the twelve bairros or wards of 
the city, with overriding powers for the administration of 
their districts in accordance with the government's emer- 
gency directions, which he saw to it thereafter descended 
upon these officials in a reassuringly ample supply. His 

8o The Lisbon Earthquake 

immediate concern was to prevent a plague, and it was 
imperative to get rid as quickly as possible of all the 

corpses, human and animal, that lay in the ruins, and to 
get rid of the pools of stinking, stagnant water. On 2 
November, Pombal suggested to the Patriarch that the 
quickest and safest method of dealing with the human 
bodies was that they should be collected in barges, towed 
out beyond the Tagus bar, and then weighed and sunk. 
The Patriarch agreed immediately 8 to this proposal, and 
he was subsequently told to order his clergy to do every- 
thing they could to get the corpses buried or removed. 
The remaining civil population also joined in the work, 
which was to be assisted in every possible way by the 
troops called to Lisbon. 9 The next urgent matter was that 
of food supplies. Stores had to be commandeered wher- 
ever there were big depots within reach of Lisbon, and 
there was a rather rough seizing of whole cargoes and 
of surplus supplies found on the ships in the harbour, 
even though the cargoes were destined for other coun- 
tries. Transport, particularly wagons, had also to be req- 
uisitioned and some sort of traffic through the ruins es- 
tablished, so that supplies could move freely. Food cen- 
tres had to be organized and camp-kitchens and ovens 

** The numerous contemporary Portuguese accounts of the strenuous 
efforts made in disposing of the dead do not make any reference to the 

procedure, IF it was carried out at all, it was probably clone in a way 
that attracted no public notice. 

g In August 1756 Caleb Whitefoord said the ruins of the Trindade, iu 
which many people had been killed, stunk abominably, and many Por- 
tuguese accounts refer to the smell of the corpses. Whilefoord says there 
was an outbreak of spotted fever, as indeed there may have been; but 
his description is much exaggerated, e.g. "there are not three houses left 
entire in all the city of Lisbon. In the suburbs indeed there are a few 
standing, but they are so rent and shattered as not to be inhabitable," 
Whitcfoord Papers, pp. 126-31, Oxford, 1898. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 81 

constructed; millers, bakers, and cooks had to be pre- 
vented from leaving the city and made to get on with 
their work as best they could. Prices of foodstuffs had 
to be strictly controlled in order to prevent profiteering, 
and every vexatious hindrance in the way of a quick food 
supply was removed; for instance, the fish from the Tagus 
could be sold anywhere on the fifty-mile stretch between 
Belem and Santarem free of duty. Another urgent mat- 
ter was that of the hospital and shelter services for the 
wounded and destitute, which had to be rapidly devel- 
oped and helped by supplies of beds and medical neces- 
sities; also prisons and all institutions where there were 
helpless people needed inspection and aid. 

It was essential to do everything possible to stop loot- 
ing and robbery at once. No mercy could be shown, and 
the immediate public execution after summary trial of 
any thief caught in the act was authorized on 4 Novem- 
ber. Ant6nio Pereira says that within a few days of the 
earthquake thirty-four people were executed for looting, 
eleven Portuguese, ten Spaniards (there were a large 
number of Spanish deserters in Lisbon), five Irishmen, 
three Savoyards, two Frenchmen, one Pole, one Fleming, 
and one Moor. Regional depots under guard were set up 
for the storage of valuables deposited by the homeless or 
recovered from uninhabited ruins. Householders and mer- 
chants were discouraged from attempting the salvage of 
lost belongings without carrying with them unimpeach- 
able proof of their identity and right to retrieve posses- 
sions. Ships had to be searched for escaped criminals, and 
all small river traffic watched carefully and permitted to 
move under a licence valid for a day only; the crews of 
the bigger shit>s were not allowed ashore, and the ves- 

82 The Lisbon Earthquake 

sels themselves not allowed to leave the Tagus until crews 
and cargoes Lad been examined by Portuguese officials. 
For a long time the most strict disciplinary control was 
necessary; in February 1756 the Patriarch had to threaten 
with excommunication persons of either sex who were 
caught masquerading as monks and nuns in order to ob- 
tain alms and assistance under false pretences, and almost 
a year after the earthquake it was necessary to order the 
arrest of the people who were going about prophesying 
that there was going to be another great earthquake on 
i November 1756, for this was done in some cases de- 
liberately in order to make frightened people leave their 
houses for the open spaces, thus creating conditions in 
which pillaging was as easy as it was in November 1755. 

A particularly difficult problem was the control of the 
refugees from the city. They were finding their way all 
over the country, and among them were thieves, escaped 
prisoners, and rascals of all kinds, in addition to a large 
number of able-bodied craftsmen and labourers who were 
needed in Lisbon. A system of passes had to be intro- 
duced, and the provincial governors instructed to send 
back to the capital all those who had escaped to a dis- 
tance without very good reason. 

Another urgent business was the provision of tempo- 
rary shelter for the homeless and the collection of mate- 
rial for making huts. Profiteering in wood, of which there 
was a shortage, was stopped, and all available supplies 
were commandeered for Lisbon. Rents of land used for 
the erection of emergency hutments were controlled. Peo- 
ple were encouraged to return, where possible, to their 
homes, and landlords were not allowed to evict their ten- 
ants from surviving dwelling-houses, and those who kept 

Men of Action and Men of Science 83 

lodgings were not allowed to put up their prices. Par- 
ticular attention had to be paid to the protection and 
housing of homeless and scattered nuns, for the physical 
distress of many of these holy women and the brutalities 
to which some of them were subjected, deeply upset and 
demoralized the ordinary pious folk of the city. The 
rehousing of the nuns whose convents were destroyed 
proved in fact to be one of the hardest tasks in the re- 
organization of Lisbon, for whole communities had to be 
reassembled and decent accommodation found for them, 
so that it was many months before the problem was on 
its way towards solution. 

Fire-fighting, with the aid of soldiers hurried into the 
capital, began at once, as did the clearance of streets 
and passages through the ruins, the demolition of dan- 
gerous structures, and first-aid to buildings still worth 
saving. Salvage was ordered wherever important collec- 
tions of materials could be rescued, and the recovery of 
royal and official archives was given a high priority. On 
29 November a detailed survey of the ruins was ordered 
to be made so that the extent of the properties destroyed 
would be on record to prevent future litigation about their 
exact sites and exact size. The engineers were made to 
control the disposal of debris, particularly the routes 
whereby it was to be shifted, a necessary precaution in 
the hilly city, and to arrange the siting of the rubble 
dumps and the levelling operations in the squares. Then, 
as soon as building could start again, limekilns for mor- 
tar and ovens for baking bricks and tiles had to be pro- 
vided on a large scale, and in addition to the work on 
the public buildings about one thousand private houses 
were restored to a usable condition in the first year. It 

84 The Lisbon Earthquake 

was, however, at once realized that Lisbon must be re- 
built according to a master plan, and from the very be- 
ginning of 1756 unauthorized building in stone or brick 
on sites in the ruined area was stopped. What this plan 
was and the nature of the economical Pombaline archi- 
tecture can still be studied in the Terreiro do Pago and 
the grid of streets running out of it to the north (cf. 
PL V). As a result Lisbon provides today a classic exam- 
ple of eighteenth-century town-planning, influenced by 
Turin and by Covent Garden, and this famous rebuilding 
is Pombal's most magnificent achievement. 

Pombal had, of course, to consider the situation outside 
Lisbon, and to provide relief for other towns that had 
suffered in the earthquake, in particular Setiibal, where 
the damage was bad. Another danger was that, taking 
advantage of the disorganization of the kingdom and a 
concentration of troops in the capital, the occasional raids 
of African pirates on the coast of Algarve, the southern 
littoral of Portugal, might develop into a serious rav- 
aging of this vulnerable and earthquake-shaken district. 
Pombal therefore sent five companies of horse, to be 
based on Loul6 and Faro and to patrol the danger-points, 
a measure that no doubt gave great comfort to the fright- 
ened inhabitants of this area. 

The dislocation of trading and money transactions was 
soon one of the worst troubles in the emergency, and 
Pombal demanded that those engaged in essential occu- 
pations should continue to conduct their business, if it 
were possible to do so. This applied to all the useful 
trades, and to banking and exchange. The continuation 
of the printing-presses was also important, partly for the 

Men of Action and Men of Science 85 

innumerable proclamations and orders that had to be 
posted over the city, and also to keep tip a supply of 
general news about the world outside Portugal. The 
weekly Gazeta de Lisbon appeared on 5 November with- 
out its publication being interrupted, and the Spanish 
gazettes were soon on sale again. It was also necessary 
to restore the trade with the Portuguese colonies over- 
seas, where the vastly exaggerated rumours about what 
had happened to Lisbon were causing merchants to sus- 
pend the dispatch of their ships with goods ready to ex- 
port to Portugal; for this reason Portuguese warships, 
which could with great difficulty be spared, were sent to 
Brazil, India, and Africa to restore confidence. The first 
of these ships left for Pernambuco on i January 1756, 
and on its return did something to alleviate the shortage 
of sugar which was making the Portuguese particularly 

The earthquake provided an opportunity for reducing 
the trading-privileges of the British; these depended on 
obligations imposed upon the Portuguese by treaty and 
were the jealously guarded rights of the Factory in Lis- 
bon and of the British wine-merchants in Oporto. Pom- 
bal considered that these concessions were too generous. 
Immediately after the earthquake, the Junta de Commer- 
cio (Board of Trade), re-created by King Jos6 at Pom- 
bars suggestion in September 1755, was briefed to pro- 
tect Portuguese trade against English interests, if indeed 
that was not one of the principal reasons for its re-estab- 
lishment, and the four per cent Donatwo, the Junta's con- 
tribution to recovery of the city and costs of rebuilding 
the official and business quarters, was a direct tax on all 
imports into Lisbon of any origin, a tax that members 

86 The Lisbon Earthquake 

of the British Factory considered to be in their case an 
illegal imposition. They claimed exemption, and were re- 
fused. In fact, they were far too eager in the period im- 
mediately following the earthquake to consolidate their 
former position as specially privileged merchants, and this 
gave Pombal an opportunity to snub them, which he did, 
as we must now admit fairly enough. The establishment 
in September 1756 of the Upper Douro Wine Company 
was another of PombaFs moves against the English priv- 
ileges in Portugal, and, clumsy and inopportune though 
it proved to be, it further embittered relations between 
England and Portugal, in spite of traditional friendship 
many centuries old and the genuine and practical sym- 
pathy wholeheartedly offered to the Portuguese by the 
English at the time of the Lisbon earthquake. 

At this point the outside opinion of Monsieur Ange 
Goudar, a young French writer on political economy, 
becomes sinisterly significant, though he overplayed his 
hand. He had been in Portugal in 1752 and had formed 
a very bad opinion of that country because of its fooHsh 
economic dependence on England, to whom in his view 
the Portuguese gold mines in Brazil now virtually be- 
longed. The purpose of the little book he published in 
1756 10 was to explain to the Portuguese that even a dis- 
astrous earthquake could be turned into a positive bless- 
ing if it were made the occasion of a definite break with 
the rapacious country that had been meanly exploiting 
Portugal for so many years. He had already written a 
long book u on French economics, criticizing almost every 

10 Relation historique du Tremblement de Term . . . prdc6d6 
Discours politique, A la Haye, 1756, 

11 Les intSrSts de la France mal entendus, par un Citoycn. 3 vols. 
Amsterdam, 1756. Also a Paris production. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 87 

aspect of die political administration of his country, and 
in it lie had commented sharply on the failure of the 
French to advance their business interests in Portugal. 
Now he explained why. England had conquered Portugal 
without the bother of a war, and a feeble, bankrupt Por- 
tuguese government accepted the situation. England now 
sold Portugal essential commodities at prices that made 
It not worth while for Portugal to produce them for them- 
selves; for this reason Portuguese agriculture was ruined, 
and the Portuguese had to buy nearly all their cloth from 
England. They bought very little indeed from the equally 
good French market, and it paid the English to see that 
Portugal did not trade in a large way with anyone but 
themselves. England took the main output of the Brazil- 
ian gold mines, and England's prosperity was to a great 
extent dependent on this shameless scoop. The portrait 
of the Portuguese King, Joao V, on Brazilian gold coins, 
was better known in London than the portrait of King 
George II on English coins. If anything went wrong with 
the economic situation In England, a few bad harvests, 
for instance, Portugal would be completely ruined, and 
the earthquake should now bring this foolish sycophantic 
country to its senses. It was mentally backward; it was 
indifferent to science and the arts, and had become one 
of the most barbaric countries of Europe; but there was 
still a last chance. 

To give point to his remarks Monsieur Goudar pub- 
lished with this discours politique a short account of the 
Lisbon earthquake and a summary of the heavy losses in- 
volved. He said the Inquisition was to blame for sup- 
pressing Industry in Portugal and preventing the proper 
increase of knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge. 

88 The Lisbon Earthquake 

He said that what Portugal needed was not hordes of 
priests and monks, but many more labourers, craftsmen, 
business men, and soldiers. The Inquisition very naturally 
banned the book in a proclamation dated 8 October 1756, 
denouncing it as seditious, provocative, likely to disturb 
the peace and Portugal's foreign relations, and also offen- 
sive and abusive, insulting, contemptuous, and libellous 
in its references to Portugal. This was an inevitable ver- 
dict and sentence from the Church, but if the reckless 
young author kept Anglo-Portuguese relations under close 
observation during the next few years, he might have 
suspected that the Portuguese government, which was 
Pombal, had come very nearly to the same conclusions 
as himself. 

In his directive of 3 November to the Patriarch about 
the quick disposal of the dead bodies, Pombal asked the 
Cardinal to do his best to stop the dreadful alarmist ser- 
mons that were terrifying the already nervous people of 
Lisbon by prophesying even greater disasters to come be- 
cause of the enormity of the city's sins; for these passion- 
ately delivered discourses not only incited their hearers 
to panic and renewed attempts to escape from the neigh- 
bourhood of the city, but also suggested that the appro- 
priate spiritual exercises should take precedence over the 
practical business of restoring order in Lisbon, and seemed 
to be reasons for resisting, as an irrelevant and wordly 
waste of time, the sensible endeavours of the government 
to provide for their bodily needs. This request by Pom- 
bal went straight to the heart of one of the most serious 
difficulties of the post-earthquake situation in Lisbon, as 
the next chapters will show. Pombal felt that what the 

Men of Action and Men of Science 89 

people of Lisbon really needed was a strong, comforting 
assurance that the earthquake was not necessarily an an- 
gry God's chastisement of His sinful children, but, more 
probably, just an accidental natural occurrence. There 
does not seem to be any evidence that he desired to in- 
terfere with the Church's proper duties or the people's 
penitence and prayers; but he did not want the inhabit- 
ants of Lisbon frightened out of their plain duties to their 
neighbours and to the community of which they formed 
a part. For this reason good factual reporting of the dis- 
aster was an essential requirement, and it was also de- 
sirable that, however vehement the opposition might be, 
the scientists should be allowed to discuss their theories 
about the earthquake's cause. 

Apart from the brief notices in the Gazeta de Lisboa, 
the first printed account of the earthquake in Portugal to 
attract attention was the Carta of Jose de Oliveira Tro- 
vao e Sousa, dated 20 December 1755 and published in 
Coimbra in that year. 12 It is a small pamphlet cast in the 
form of a letter to a friend who had asked particulars of 
the disaster from a writer who was in no mood for any 
belittling of the horrors he had witnessed. The earth, we 
are told, had opened in great yawning caverns; the seis- 
mic waves were so tremendous that the very sea-bed was 
exposed; the population gave way to violently emotional 
religious agonies expressed in tears, confessions, and acts 
of penitence; heretics became suddenly converted to the 
Roman faith. The loss of life was colossal, totalling about 
seventy thousand killed; practically the whole of Lisbon 
was uninhabitable. The damage elsewhere in Portugal 

12 Carta em que hum amigo dd noticia a outro do lamentavel successo 
de Lisboa. Coimbra, 1755. 

90 The Lisbon Earthquake 

was appalling. Setubal was almost totally ruined and two 
thousand people were killed there; 120 died in Sintra; 
Santarem had lost most of its fine buildings. Only in Co- 
imbra, where the author lived, was everything different. 
Coimbra suffered a violent shock, but the mighty arm of 
God was protecting the city, and the damage was neg- 
ligible; Coimbra, conscience-stricken, at once devoted it- 
self to the most elaborate religious exercises, so fervently 
and piously that Coimbra set an example to the whole 
of Portugal. Lisbon, on the other hand, one must sorrow- 
fully infer, had received its deserts; for Lisbon was a very 
wicked city. 

This preposterous account of the earthquake annoyed 
the sensible Portuguese, who understood how foolish it 
was to exaggerate a situation already very bad indeed. 
Protests were published quickly by two writers; the first 
a Franciscan, Antonio dos Remedies, whose reply 18 is 
dated 20 January 1756, challenged the nonsense about 
the earth opening in great chasms and the sea-bed be- 
ing exposed, and also the reckless statements about the 
numbers of the killed; the second, Bento Morganti (see 
p. no), writing under the name Jos^ Acursio de Tavares 
in a pamphlet dated 13 February 1/56, 14 said it was ab- 
surd to describe Lisbon as totally destroyed, since, except 
for a small part of the Alfama, and a considerable part 
of the districts of Rua Nova, Rossio, Remolares, and the 
Bairro Alto, Lisbon was still habitable. 

The first sensible piece of reporting by a Portuguese 
author that was widely read is the Commentary by An- 

18 Resposta a carta de JosS de Oliveira Trovao e Sou$a. Lisbon, 1758. 
^Verdade Vindicada, ou resposta a huma carta escrUo de Coimbra, 
Lisbon, 1756. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 91 

tonio Pereira (afterwards Antonio Pereira de Figueiredo), 
a young priest of the Congregation of the Oratory who 
later became one of the most famous theologians of eight- 
eenth-century Portugal (see p. 165). His account of the 
earthquake was published in Lisbon in 1756 in Latin and 
Portuguese/ 5 and in London in Latin and English. 16 The 
Chevalier de Oliveira, a Portuguese exile in London who 
had become a Protestant, was greatly and unfairly of- 
fended by this publication (see p. 162), for it was col- 
oured by a warmhearted Roman Catholic thought and 
spoke of miracles and the fate of sacred images, subjects 
that the author knew would be of great interest to the 
Roman communion all over the world. The little pam- 
phlet began with the remark that the Lisbon earthquake 
was such a terrible event that one would think God had 
decided to punish the sins of many ages in a single day, 
and in a few vivid sentences Ant6nio Pereira gave a grue- 
some picture of what had happened; but he said that 
there had been a number of amazing rescues of a mirac- 
ulous nature, and on the practical side great credit must 
be given to the authorities for the care given to the 
wounded and the efficient disposal of the dead. Readers 
must be cautioned against exaggerated estimates of the 
numbers killed; in his own Oratory church where the Co- 
imbra pamphlet said two hundred people had died, An- 
t6nio Pereira had learnt from his brethren present at the 
time that at the most not more than fifty people had per- 
ished. He had made inquiries about casualties throughout 
all the religious orders, and he did not think more than 

15 Commentario Latino e Portuguez sobre o terremoto e incendfo de 
Lisboa. De que foy testemunha ocular $eu Autor . . , Lisbon, 1756- 

iA Narrative of the Earthquake and Fire of Lisbon by Anthony 
Pereira. London, 1756, 

92 The Lisbon Earthquake 

two hundred professed members had lost their lives, and 
the total casualties of the earthquake he put at about 
fifteen thousand. He then gave a list of the buildings de- 
stroyed, correcting some of the statements in the Coim- 
bra letter, and mentioning the rescue of the archives from 
the damaged Torre do Tombo; he then described the dam- 
age done by the fire, and lamented the disastrous loss of 
Lisbon's art collections and libraries; next, he spoke of the 
practical measures whereby a chaotically difficult situa- 
tion had been quickly brought under control, and he said 
that the admirable work of the civil administration had 
been equalled by the inspiring direction of the Patriarch 
in religious matters. 

That is a typical contemporary description of the Lis- 
bon earthquake by an honest Portuguese writer, and there 
are several of its kind. On the other hand, the pamphlets 
suggesting that the Lisbon earthquake was a natural hap- 
pening, like eclipses, thunder, rain, or anything else that 
was alarming or disastrous in man's celestial or terrestrial 
environment, are far fewer in number. To advocate this 
view openly was a bold act likely to shock most devout 
Portuguese people and anger their religious instructors, 
and it is at first only in short and rather carefully worded 
publications that this view, even though it had PombaFs 
full support, was advocated by Portuguese scientists resi- 
dent in Portugal. One of the earliest to venture an opin- 
ion on. this dangerous subject was the Marquesa de Ta- 
vora's doctor, Jose Alvares da Silva, whose work is dated 
from the Campo Pequeno 17 on 6 December I7S5- 18 The 

17 The Paldcio Galveias, now the Biblioteca Municipal Central, in the 
Campo Pequeno, was a Tavora residence, 

18 Investigapao das causas proximo^ do Terremoto, succedido em Lis- 
boa no anno de 17-^55. For J. A. da S, Lisbon, 1756. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 93 

earthquake, he said, might be a judgement of God upon 
the Portuguese; but da Silva insisted that earthquakes 
could also be naturally caused, and he explained that 
there were several scientific theories suggesting how and 
why they happened; compressed air, for instance, is a 
likely explanation, and electricity may be an important 
factor. It is true enough that God must be ultimately the 
cause of every earthquake, but that is not a sufficient 
reason for supposing that the Lisbon earthquake was a 
result of Lisbon's wickedness. It is ridiculous to compare 
Lisbon with Babylon, and if God intended by this exam- 
ple to show His anger against atheists and free-thinkers, 
there were obviously other countries far more deserving 
of His divine chastisement. The real point is that it is a 
duty to find out how nature works, before we decide that 
what may be natural events are supernatural; we must 
study experimental physics seriously and learn what nat- 
ural forces can perform. The world would be spiritually 
poorer without the results of the researches of men like 
Descartes or Newton, and it was, said da Silva, a very 
fortunate thing for Portugal that some of the Portuguese 
nobility, particularly the fourth Conde da Ericeira ( 1673- 
1743), had realized that the physical sciences must be en- 

Another author who stood shoulder to shoulder with 
da Silva was Miguel Tiberio Pedegache Brandao Ivo, a 
young military man of Swiss descent who was a native 
of Lisbon and was well-read in science. He gave, first 
of all, a purely factual description of the disaster and a 
long dissertation about subterranean fires, but his final 
suggestion was that the moon may have something to do 
with the cause of an earthquake, as also the heat of the 

94 The Lisbon Earthquake 

sun. 19 Yet another writer who was concerned exclusively 
with scientific causes, and even dared to rebuke the alarm- 
ist preachers, was Verissimo Antonio Moreira de Men- 
donga, a great advocate of the central fire theory and 
brother of Joachim Jose de Mendonga, whose longer study 
of earthquakes and description of the Lisbon one, pub- 
lished in 1758, with an alternative scientific explanation, 
will be presently mentioned. Immediately, however, we 
come to a book of far greater significance than any of 
the brief scientific papers of which we have been speak- 
ing, a medical treatise by a celebrated Portuguese doctor 
of European fame who was living in France, Ant6nio 
Nunes Ribeiro Sanches (1699-1783). 

The Portuguese had not neglected the medical aspects 
of the earthquake. They dreaded the outbreak of a plague, 
a calamity well known to Lisbon, and their frantic con- 
cern about getting rid of the corpses and restoring some 
sort of drainage system was a sensible expression of this 
fear. The medical men available in Lisbon were no doubt 
far too few in numbers and were not properly trained to 
deal with this emergency; but they did their best and 
understood the danger that threatened the city. The Ta- 
vora house-doctor, Jose Alvares da Silva, whose scientific 
Investigagdo has been already mentioned, wrote another 
pamphlet, 20 dated 16 March 1756, in which he showed 
that the risk of infection from the putrefaction of the 
corpses was not as serious as might be thought. He said 
there was good reason for supposing, as Dr. Mead in 

10 Nova e Fiel Relacao do Terremoto que experimentou Lisboa e todo 
Portugal no i de Novembw 1755, com algumas observacions curio$a$ e 
a explicacao das suas causas. For M. T. P. Lisbon, 1756, 

20 "PrecauQoes Medicas contra algumas remotas con^equendas t que $e 
podem excitar do Terremoto de 17-^55. Lisbon, 1756. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 95 

England had suggested, that plagues start in Africa and 
nowhere else, and even if conditions in Lisbon were ob- 
viously disquieting, at least it should be remembered that 
the dreadful consuming fire had compensating purgative 
properties, having performed wholesale sanitary crema- 
tions, and also that a mercifully persistent north wind had 
cleared the city seawards of all noxious odours; moreover, 
as it was winter, some corpses had been protected from 
doing harm by partial refrigeration, and others had been 
to some appreciable extent mummified by copious de- 
posits of tar and ashes. On the other hand, though plague 
does not come from rotting bodies, a large number of 
lesser ailments may do so, and it is extremely important 
to observe certain fundamental rules of hygiene, partic- 
ularly those that keep the blood pure; da Silva then ex- 
plained what sensible people ought to do in the matter 
of diet and exercise and the use of disinfectants and fre- 
quent changes into clean clothes. He stressed the value 
of mental confidence and refusal to panic, and he sug- 
gested that music was very important as a sedative; he 
then prescribed various medicines to cure the preliminary 
disorders that might seem to be the beginning of a much 
more serious illness. Finally, he paid a most respectful 
tribute to his great friend Ribeiro Sanches, who had writ- 
ten to express his approval of what da Silva said, and that 
is a deserved introduction to the book that was shortly 
to arrive in Lisbon written by this famous man, one of 
the foremost physicians in Europe. 

Ant6nio Nunes Ribeiro Sanches (1699-1783), who was 
of Jewish origin, had taken his degree in Coimbra, had 
worked in a plague in Lisbon in 1723, and had after- 
wards studied in Geneva, London, Paris, and with Boer- 

96 The Lisbon Earthquake 

haave in Leiden, and had been an honoured physician in 
the Russian imperial court. His contribution to his coun- 
try's needs in the hour of its agony was the publication 
in 1756 in Paris of a long book 21 on the maintenance of 
the public health. It was anonymous and had a dedica- 
tion to the Duque de Lafoes by Pedro Gendron, 22 but it 
was on sale in Lisbon as well as in Paris, and there does 
not seem to have been any mystery about the identity of 
its author. The book is said to have had the warm ap- 
proval of Pombal, as is indeed likely, for the manual was 
plainly intended to be of practical use to the authorities 
responsible for the recovery of Lisbon, and it was indeed 
the best possible antidote to an unsettling religious hys- 
teria. Ribeiro Sanches said that the medical control of 
a community depended on the observation of certain 
simple rules and regulations safeguarding the health of 
the people, and he thought that every responsible person 
ought to know what these rules are and the principles 
underlying them; he had specially in mind heads of re- 
ligious institutions, hospitals and prisons, military and na- 
val commanders, and fathers of families. Ribeiro Sanches 
was particularly anxious that architects should also study 
the handbook, so that new buildings should be sanitary 
and well-aired, and he also emphasized how important 
it was for the Portuguese to study the health of their 
sailors, for the capital was exposed to risk of diseases 
brought by ships from their world- wide dominions. Fresh 

21 Tratado da conserva$ao da Saude dos Povos: obra util> c igualmente 
necessaria a os Magistrados, Capitaens Generais, Capitaens de Mar e 
Querra, Prelados, Abbadessas, Medicos, e Pays de Familia; com hum 
Appendix. Considerations sobre o$ Terremotos . . , Paris, e se vencle 
em Lisboa, 1756. 

22 A Parisian bookseller, later known as an editor of Camoes. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 97 

air and cleanliness were his main requirements, and he 
had a great deal to say about ventilation and sanitary 
regulations, diseases common in barracks, camps, and 
ships, and suitable dietary treatment. Finally, Ribeiro 
Sanches said that medical schools in Portugal needed en- 
couragement and improvement, and he urged that young 
medical men should not be allowed to practice without 
adequate previous experience of clinical work. Then came 
an appendix about earthquakes and their causes. He re- 
viewed the principal ancient and modern scientific theo- 
ries in order to make it quite clear that all who have con- 
sidered the matter carefully treat earthquakes as natural 
events, for which reason ignorant, timid, superstitious peo- 
ple should be strongly discouraged from regarding them 
in terror as supernatural events. Their attitude spreads 
alarm and a sense of hopelessness. We are not afraid any 
more in that way of thunder or lightning; we do not re- 
gard violent tempests as terrifying prodigies with moral 
implications; we have got used to horrors like war, which 
man makes every bit as destructive as anything nature 
can do; we accept gunpowder, fire, and poison as ordi- 
nary hazards of life, and we do not believe these things 
strike at us under supernatural instruction as a punish- 
ment for our sins. Only when earthquakes are concerned 
do we slip back into our panicky primitive fears. We must 
now try to get used to thinking of earthquakes as we think 
of storms, and to realize that they are really very com- 
mon occurrences. God may use an earthquake to punish 
mankind. That must be admitted. But the majority of 
earthquakes cannot possibly have a moral significance, 
and we are very foolish to worry about them on the 

98 The Lisbon Earthquake 

grounds that they are punishments and warnings of fur- 
ther impending disasters. 

It was in Spain and not in Portugal that the contro- 
versy about the cause of earthquakes had its oddest air- 
ing in print. It began when an ingenious scientist, Juan 
Luis Roche of Puerto de Santa Maria in the Gulf of 
Cadiz, published an account of the effects of the earth- 
quake of i November in that little town. This is in the 
form of a letter, dated 12 November, to the various learned 
academies with which he was connected, and in these he 
gave a very careful description of the shock and the sub- 
sequent seismic wave. 23 He studied the positions of the 
fallen masonry, using a compass, and had theories about 
the direction in which the earthquake had moved, and he 
measured as far as possible the extent of the flooding 
that did so much damage in the lower part of the town. 
He said he had no new explanation to offer of the cause 
of earthquakes, as much had already been written on the 
various scientific explanations of them; but he did not 
think any of them was entirely satisfactory. He was con- 
cerned simply with a record of what happened, and as 
this is unfolded we find that while Dr. Roche was a good 
scientist writing for fellow-scientists, he was also in rea- 
sonable agreement with much that the more superstitious 
clergy were saying about the earthquake. His view seems 
to have been that though science can explain how an 
earthquake happens, nevertheless when one does take 

23 Relacitin y Observations physicas-mathematicas^ y morales sobre el 
general Terremoto y la Irrupcidn del Mar . . . que comprendid a la 
Ciudad y Gran Puerto de Santa Maria, y a toda la Costa, y Tierra frme 
del ret/no de Andalucia. Es una Carta que escrivio DJ.L.R. Puerto de 
Santa Maria, 1755. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 99 

place it is in spite of its natural causes supernaturally 
controlled. He had no difficulty in accepting a variety of 
miracles that took place in Puerto de Santa Maria in con- 
nexion with the events of i November, and he believed, 
for example, that the seismic wave was checked and re- 
pulsed by the Virgin Maiy. In fact, Roche held that an 
earthquake could not be dismissed as a purely natural 
event, for one could actually observe what could only be 
the providential control of the shock's effects. Take Se- 
ville, for instance. Why did the Giralda remain standing 
after the earthquake on i November? It is 350 feet high 
with a heavy belfry and bronze finial at the top; its walls 
have to take a strain in an earthquake ten times greater 
than a thirty-foot tower, and oscillate over an arc ten 
times greater. Yet, whereas many smaller towers did col- 
lapse in this earthquake, the Giralda was not destroyed. 
Why? Because God had protected it. 

The next event, which seems to have startled Spain al- 
most as much as the earthquake itself, was the publica- 
tion by Roche of a pronouncement on the cause of earth- 
quakes by the most respected and most outspoken of all 
the learned men in Spain, the famous Benito Jeronimo 
Feyzoo y Montenegro (1676-1764), a Benedictine living 
in Oviedo and then eighty years old, Feyzoo referred to 
Roche as his intimate and ingenious friend, and that was 
a great honour for the Andalusian, as the prestige of the 
celebrated old man was by this time enormous. He was 
renowned for his fearless denunciation of medieval habits 
of thought, dubious miracleshe had written a poem de- 
nouncing an alleged miracle in Roche's Puerto de Santa 
Maria, pointing out that it was just due to reflection 24 

24 Feyz6o : Adiciones d las O"bras, p. 17. Madrid, 1783. 

loo The Lisbon Earthquake 

the superstitious teaching of the clergy, obsolete educa- 
tional methods, the cold-shouldering of modem scientific 
knowledge, and almost everything that was unprogressive 
and backward in Spain; but because of his piety he had 
escaped any severe official condemnation and because of 
his skill and sincerity in confounding those who were im- 
prudent enough to challenge him, his influence was very 
great indeed and his lightest word listened to with a gen- 
uine respect. As we see it now, Feyzoo was not an im- 
portant scientist, and his remarks on the cause of earth- 
quakes are nothing more than some modest and casual 
speculations of a learned old man put forward in the 
course of writing a few letters on a subject that much 
interested him; but Roche regarded these letters as a lit- 
erary and scientific scoop that would cause a sensation in 
Spain, and he published them in Puerto de Santa Maria 
in 1756 with the impressive title, A New Theory about 
the physical cause of Earthquakes, now explained by elec- 
tric phenomena, and specially adapted to the shock felt 
in Spain on November ist i/55. 25 This arresting work is 
packed out with a variety of prefaces and preliminary es- 
says by Roche himself and some young scientific friends 
in Seville. 

The letters were written by Feyz6o in Oviedo in De- 
cember 1755 and January 1756, and the first four were 
addressed to Josef Diaz de Guitian of C&diz, and the 
fifth to a canon of Toledo Cathedral who had asked Fey- 

25 Nuevo Systhema sobre la causa physica de los Terremotos, explicado 
por los phenomenos electricos, y adaptado al que padecid Espana en i 
de Noviembre del ano antecedents de 1755. Su autor El Illmo. y Rmo, 
Senor Don Fray Benito Geronymo Feyz6o, Ex-General de la Religion de 
San Benito, del Conseio de su Majestad, etc. Puerto de Santa Maria, 

Men of Action and Men of Science 101 

zoo to say something that would lessen the general alarm 
caused throughout Spain by the earthquake o i Novem- 
ber. In the first letter Feyzoo wondered if the frequent 
earthquakes of the eighteenth century could be due to 
a gradual contraction of the earth's substance, a crum- 
bling and cracking-up of the globe that was bound to end 
up in a portentous calamity; but he went on to say that 
if the earthquake in the Iberian peninsula on i Novem- 
ber had been felt also in France, foreign scientists would 
have had quite a good case for attributing the cause to 
the newly fashionable cause of everything, namely elec- 
tricity. In his third letter he returns again to the strange 
fact that earthquakes happen simultaneously at points far 
distant one from another, and by this time he had col- 
lected a considerable amount of information on the sub- 
ject. In the case of the last earthquake both Cadiz and 
Oviedo experienced the shock at precisely the same time, 
9:45 A.M., a matter on which Feyzoo could speak with 
some certainty as in Oviedo the Cathedral clock and the 
Benedictine College clock were excellent timekeepers. 
Yet Oviedo and Cdiz were nearly five hundred miles 
apart. Interior conflagrations and explosions cannot pos- 
sibly explain this, so that the electricity theory had to be 
taken seriously, and he said he was now prepared to sup- 
port the idea, on the supposition that materia electrica, 
though deeply embedded in the earth, could reach in- 
stantly to the earth's upper caverns, however far apart 
they might be situated and explode at the same moment 
the combustible gasses that had been collecting in them. 26 

26 This was not a new suggestion, for William Stukeley in England 
(see p. 18) and Andrea Bina in Italy, Ragionamente sopra la cagione 
de" Tremuoti, first published in 1751 and repubMshed in 1756, had pro- 
posed similar theories. 

io2 The Lisbon Earthquake 

In the fifth letter Feyzoo left this gentle scientific specu- 
lation in order to explain that the popular fear of earth- 
quakes was rather ridiculous. There was no reason to 
dread earthquakes in the way that people do. There is 
a much greater risk of sudden death from other causes, 
and this should be realized and we should all of us so 
order our lives that we are prepared for sudden death. 
As a grim warning to the heedless, Feyzoo mentioned the 
dreadful end of an adulterous couple who were found 
dead in each other's arms in an inn in Galicia. 

Juan Luis Roche was impressed and also a little jealous 
when he read these letters. Electricity was his subject, and 
he believed he was the first person to experiment with 
an electrical machine in Spain. He had said in his Rela- 
cion that he was doubtful about die current scientific ex- 
planations of earthquakes, and he now felt it should have 
been understood that he was already considering whether 
electricity might not be their real cause. Some of his sci- 
entific friends were inclined to take his side, and his pub- 
lication of the Nuevo Systhema is not only a tribute to 
Feyzoo, whom he did sincerely admire, but also a fairly 
plain hint that Seville had very little to learn from Oviedo. 
In fact, scientific Seville had something very important to 
say, not particularly about Feyz6o and the electricity 
theory, but about a proper attitude towards earthquakes. 

Roche called to his aid two young scientists in, Seville, 
and all three no doubt considered that under the shelter 
of Feyz6o*s letters science could now state its case with 
great confidence and show how absurd it was for the 
people to be terrified by the common talk that God 
caused earthquakes in order to punish those who had of- 
fended Him. The first of the two young men who con- 

Men of Action and Men of Science 103 

tributed essays to the Nuevo Systhema was Jose Cevallos 
(1726-76) of Seville University, a man with a brilliant 
career ahead of him as theologian, scientist, academician, 
and Rector of the University. He was full of praise for 
Feyzoo, and sure that it was right to do everything pos- 
sible to discover the scientific cause of earthquakes, for, 
after all, common safety depended on the possession of 
much more accurate information about their cause and 
effects; but he did not feel at all sure that Feyzoo had 
solved the problem. He objected to the theory that Se- 
ville and Lisbon were connected by an earthquake-track, 
as historical records did not support the view that these 
two cities generally suffered earthquakes simultaneously, 
and he did not by any means trust the electricity theory. 
He did not think people really knew much about it yet. 
Feyzoo was impressed by Musschenbroek's painful exper- 
iment with the Leiden jar in which he had nearly electro- 
cuted himself; 27 but Cevallos had tried it for himself, and 
he had got no result worse than a shock in the arm, the 
effect of which lasted for a fortnight. Cevallos then went 
on to say how much he liked Feyz6o's fifth letter, and he 
turned rather abruptly on the Seville clergy; they should 
show themselves much more ready to give absolution in 
cases of accidents and emergencies; their record on the 
day of the earthquake was very bad. Here the young man 
makes his main point. Earthquakes are part of the or- 
dinary hazards of life, like accidents in the street. God 

27 Feyz6o probably got his information about the jar experiment from 
the Abb6 Mangins, Histoire g6nerale et particuliere de TElectfidte, Paris, 
1752 (published anonymously). He had also the M<$moires of the Aca~ 
demie des Sciences (annee 1746, p. 2) and the Abbe^ J. A. Nollet's works 
on electricity, one of which had been translated into Spanish by J. Vaz- 
quez y Morales, Ensayo sobre la Electncidad de los Cuerpos, prefaced 
by a brief Historia de la Electncidad. Madrid, 1747- 

104 ^ e Lisbon Earthquake 

may be their ultimate cause, but that does not mean that 
the earthquake-dead have been supernaturally executed 
on special divine instruction. Ignorant preaching on the 
supernatural origin had done great harm, and theologians 
who would not acquaint themselves with modern thought 
are much to be blamed. 

The second essay on Feyz6o's letters in this extraor- 
dinary publication was written by Francisco de Buendia 
y Ponce (1721-1800), a young medical man in holy or- 
ders who, like Cevallos, afterwards became a famous 
scholar and writer. He wanted to express his view of a 
doctor's responsibility in the matter of confession and ab- 
solution; 2S for he was deeply concerned about the haz- 
ards of sudden death, and he capped the Oviedo story 
of the adulterous couple with a tale of two couples of 
young Andalusian adulterers who got imprisoned in a 
cave on the shore of the Guadalquivir into which they 
entered in order to indulge their wicked passions; a fall 
of rock shut them in, and they were not found until a 
week or so later when dogs scented their rotting bodies. 

Then Juan Luis Roche himself introduced the master's 
letters in a long preface. He was now writing as a cou- 
rageous scientist, full of praise for his pet electricity and 
its formidable powers; he felt it his duty to denounce the 
popular attitude to earthquakes, which took the form of 
a mood of hysterical and superstitious religious fear fol- 
lowed quickly by forgetfulness and flippancy. Today's 
tears are quickly replaced by tomorrow's dances, and lam- 
entations give way to insolent jesting on sacred subjects. 
In Seville, at the time when he wrote, one could find fans, 
ribbons, shoes, songs, and dances, all with frivolous earth- 

28 Cf. Feyz6o on this subject, Cartas Eruditas, v, Carta XII 

Men of Action and Men of Science 105 

quake-allusions, and that sort of thing, said Roche, is an 
insult to the proper fear of God. 

Feyz6o's pronouncement, published under these wordy 
and enthusiastic auspices, made a very great impression, 
and argument about his views continued into 1757. Dr. 
Miguel Cabrera of Seville and the aged Bishop of Gua- 
dix, Miguel de San Jose, refuted this new electricity the- 
ory, and the Bishop spoke somewhat sharply about the 
reluctance of Dr. Cevallos to recognize the operation of 
the divine hand in an earthquake. He was quite prepared 
to meet the scientists on their own ground. Science was 
no mystery; it was a subject taught at the theological 
colleges, and the clergy were quite capable of exposing 
fallacies such as those evident in Feyzoo's electricity the- 
ory and in the presumption of Copernicus, who had tried 
to halt the sun and move the earth. They had, however, 
the additional advantage of being trained in a superior 
science, pneumatologia, the science of spirits. Frankly, the 
Bishop believed that earthquakes were caused by evil 
spirits who had obtained, God permitting it, a temporary 
malevolent control of those forces of nature that people 
like Dr. Cevallos now supposed to be the exclusive prov- 
ince of scientific speculation. 

Feyz6o had indeed alarmed conservative Hispanic 
thought. From Toledo the Licenciado Juan de Zuniga 
protested to the great man himself; he said that earth- 
quakes were God's most frightful way of showing His 
anger and that man's sins were undoubtedly their real 
cause. Feyz6o replied kindly that it was a pious duty to 
bear such considerations in mind. This was not considered 
a very satisfactory answer, and Portugal intervened in the 
person of a young lawyer, Feliciano da Cunha Franga, 

106 The Lisbon Earthquake 

who wrote a disapproving pamphlet o fifty pages on the 
misplaced interest of Feyzoo and others in the scientific 
causes of the earthquake. He knew for certain that what 
had happened in Lisbon had been directly ordered by 
God in order to punish sin. 

In Seville Dr. Jose Cevallos decided to answer Miguel 
de San Jose, the Bishop of Guadix. He said he was not 
prepared to defend the electricity theory. Electricity was 
a new-fangled thing, made by a machine, not mentioned 
in the Bible, and there is really no evidence that in an- 
tiquity, or at any time in Spain, there was such a force. 
He agreed wholeheartedly that God is rightly regarded 
as the original cause of all earthquakes; but God may 
have many motives in permitting earthquakes to take 
place, and of ten possible reasons anger against sinners 
is the last. All the evidence suggests that the great earth- 
quake of i November 1755 was a natural earthquake. It 
was, of course, right to fear earthquakes, to pray God to 
deliver men from them, and to try to improve one's con- 
duct as a result of them. He cited with admiration Bishop 
Caspar de Villaroel of Santiago, Chile, who had experi- 
enced the great earthquake there in May 1647; this prel- 
ate had been so disgusted by the lies, false miracles, reve- 
lations, prophecies, and so on, that had followed the dis- 
aster, such as had disgusted Cevallos in Seville, that he 
boldly declared before all the world that he saw no 
reason to suppose that earthquakes were always punish- 
ments for the sins of the people who lived in the towns 
destroyed by their agency. 29 Cevallos said the clergy had 
a heavy duty laid upon them at the time of an earth- 

29 Caspar de Villaroel: Govierno Ecdesiastico Padfico, H, p. 581. Ma- 
drid, 1738. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 107 

quake. They should Instruct the public on behaviour, con- 
fession, prayer, and divine providence, and they should 
discredit, instead of spreading, silly stories about devils 
lurking over the city, and about worse destruction to 
come, and also about the miraculous behaviour of images. 
Lies such as that there had never been an earthquake in 
Rome, or in Toledo, the second Rome, could be and 
should be disproved. The really important thing, said 
Cevallos, was to make it generally known that the pub- 
lic welfare required a scientific investigation of the causes 
and behaviour of earthquakes in order that there should 
be in the future warnings before they happened, houses 
built to withstand their shock, an escape-drill, and train- 
ing in fire-fighting. 

Some of the Portuguese were of the same opinion, and 
the best example of this kind of sensible study of the 
Lisbon earthquake was published in 1758. It was the work 
of Joachim Jose Moreira de Mendonga, an official of the 
Torre do Tonibo archive In the Castle, who was in the 
Castle precincts when the earthquake happened. His ac- 
count Is a document of great value for it was compiled 
with a controlling regard for accuracy, and it was Moreira 
de Mendoncja who first corrected the story of the total 
engulfing of the Gals de Pedra, Joao V's fine new marble 
quay in the Terreiro do Pago, a story still repeated as 
one of the most frightful occurrences on the earthquake 
day. The main interest of his book, however, is that it 
is designed on a grand scale and has the imposing title 
HiMoria Universal das Terremotos; for he thought that a 
full history of all the recorded earthquakes of the past 
would show them to be common events and so diminish 

io8 The Lisbon Earthquake 

the horrors of the disaster that had lately befallen Lis- 
bon. At the same time he believed that a demonstration 
of the frequency of earthquakes would warn his readers 
of an ever-present danger, so that, firstly, they should do 
their best to lead good lives and keep their consciences 
clear, in order that, whatever happened, their souls would 
not perish, and, secondly, so that they should learn to 
build stronger houses in the reasonable hope that they 
need not even lose their lives. Moreira de Mendona*s 
concern for souls was prudent as it made it possible 
for the Inquisition censor to decide that he was a good 
philosophe and a good historian who could write about 
the natural causes of earthquakes without forgetting the 
moral lessons they are meant to enforce, and without in 
any way offending against the teaching of his most holy 

Moreira de Mendona, who said he was an extremely 
busy man with little time to spare for writing, was ob- 
viously well-read in science before the earthquake and a 
thoughtful man well-qualified for the task he set him- 
self. When he came to his dissertation on geo-physics, 
Moreira de Mendonga said that though we could not pos- 
sibly hope to comprehend all the mysteries of the uni- 
verse, God did make the world we live in for us men, 
and it is presumably His wish that we should try to find 
out all we can about its nature. Men have dwelt on the 
earth for a long time, and still the world is full of ap- 
parently unfathomable secrets, and many would say that 
earthquakes are among the inexplicable phenomena; but 
on another view they are a challenge to our intelligence 
that we must accept. Admittedly, it is difficult to investi- 
gate their causes by direct observation and testing, but 

Men of Action and Men of Science 109 

it is nevertheless our duty to think out an explanation that 
is based on what little we do know about geology and 
mechanics and is also in agreement with the observable 
laws of nature. 

After a short summary of the older explanations of 
earthquakes, Moreira de Mendonga turns suddenly to an 
exposure of what he considered to be the feeble and mis- 
leading views on this subject of his contemporaries in Por- 
tugal. He is made angry by any theory based on the sole 
agency of a perpetual fire raging in the bowels of the 
earth, and nothing really pleased him in the Portuguese 
pamphlets on the science of earthquake causes; even his 
own brother, since dead, was in his view on the wrong 
track. The Spanish literature he liked better, and he sin- 
gled out for praise the Disertacion fisica of Dr. Francisco 
Martinez Moles of the University of Alcala, who, though 
he did believe in the subterranean fire, nevertheless 
thought that earthquakes were caused by its effect on 
air and water under the earth. Moreira de Mendonga 
rightly understood that the grand old man Feyzoo was 
not putting forward his electricity theory in a serious way; 
he was just speculating about possible causes, and both 
Father Miguel Cabrera of Seville and the learned Bishop 
of Guadix had convincingly demolished his case; never- 
theless, electricity was a new subject, and very interest- 
ing, so that Feyzoo Nuevo Systhema should be mentioned, 
if only to introduce to Portugal the opinions of such dis- 
tinguished people as Feyzoo and Juan Luis Roche. After 
all this, Moreira de Mendonga gives us his own view 
about the actual causes of an earthquake, 80 which is that 

80 The contemporary earthquake-theories of Hispanic writers mentioned 
by Moreira de Mendonga are: ( i ) Portugal. Joao Ant6nio da Costa, Con- 

no The Lisbon Earthquake 

suggested by the Spanish writer, Moles, namely the ex- 
plosive force of imprisoned air and water when heated by 
fire inside the earth. According to Moreira de Mendona 
air and water circulate everywhere in the interior caverns 
of the earth, and in the earth there is an enormous amount 
of latent fire in the form of inflammable elements inter- 
mixed in all the materals of which earth, air, and water 
are made. All these materials are penetrable by, and kept 
in a state of movement by, ether, and they are contin- 
ually acting upon each other. Fire therefore may originate 
accidentally at any time inside the earth either by spon- 
taneous combustion or by fermentation, and it is these 
sudden conflagrations, however caused, that turn air and 
water in contact with them into the enormously powerful 
explosive force that is capable of causing an earthquake. 
Some writers who explained what they believed to be 
the physical causes of the earthquake were also anxious 
to acknowledge that such a dreadful event might also be 
interpreted as God's moral judgement on a sinful city. 
There is, for instance, an account of the disaster, dated 
16 December 1755, by Bento Morganti (b. 1709), a Lis- 
bon priest of half -Italian parentage with numismatic, ar- 

versacao Erudita (see p. 111); J. Alvares da Silva, Investigagao (see p. 
92); Jose Xavier de Valadares e Sousa, Terraemotus . , . Poetica De~ 
scriptio, whose unscriptural view that the earth was once a planetary 
ball of fire is particularly to be condemned; Verissimo Ant6nio de Mo- 
reira de Mendonca (d. 1756), Dis$erta$ao Philosopliica sobre o Terre- 
moto de Portugal, the author's brother, another mistaken advocate of the 
central fire theory; and FeHciano da Cunha Franca, ExtengSo de Dicta- 
men . . . do , . . Feyzdo (see p. 105), who is severely handled as he 
was imprudent enough to criticize the accuracy of Verissimo Ant6nio. 
(2) Spain. In addition to Moles, Feyz6o, Cabrera, and the Bishop of 
Guadix, Moreira de Mendonc,a refers to a carta of Ant6nio Jacobo del 
Barco y Gasco, published in Discwsos Mercuriales XIV; Juan de Zurliga 
(see p. 105) and Francisco Mariano Nifo y Cagigal, Explicad6n physico 
y moral de las caitsas , , . cfe los terremotos. Madrid, 1755. 

Men of Action and Men of Science 111 

chaeological, and scientific interests, in which the author 
had much to say about the miracles that happened dur- 
ing the earthquake, particularly those connected with the 
images of Our Lady (cf. p. 119), and the reasonableness 
of imploring God to restrain the natural forces whereby 
He chastised His sinful children; yet, Bento Morganti said, 
really and truly earthquakes are nothing but natural phe- 
nomena caused by the violent explosions of mixed fire and 
air in the bowels of the earth. 31 Similarly, Joao Antonio 
da Costa e Andrade, a lawyer of Santarem, in an elab- 
orate discussion 82 about the effects of the earthquake in 
his native town and its neighbourhood, introduces a phi- 
losopher to explain the actual causes of the earthquake 
and a priest to argue strongly that the earthquake was 
primarily a supernatural portent. In the same way the 
learned Nifo of Madrid said in the introduction to his 
excusively scientifical study S3 of earthquakes that so far 
as the last one was concerned, shockingly bad behaviour 
in church and some quite unmentionable sins explained 
satisfactorily in his view why God had allowed the dis- 
aster of i November 1755 to happen. 

Joachim Jose and Verissimo Antonio Moreira de Men- 
donga, on the other hand, did not agree about what was 
happening in the interior of the earth, but they were 
united in their contempt of the notion that the Lisbon 
earthquake was the consequence of Lisbon's sins. They 
did not even entertain the idea. Verissimo Antonio in the 

81 Carta de hum amigo para outro em que se dd succinta noticia dos 
effeitos de Terremoto , . . com alguns principios fisicos para se conhecer 
a origem e causa natural de similhantes phenom&nos terrestres. Lisbon, 


82 Conversagao Erudita, Discurso Familiar, Conferencias Asceticas, His- 
toricas, Politicas e Philosophical. Lisbon, 1756. 

83 See footnote, pp. 109-10. 

112 The Lisbon Earthquake 

preface to his little pamphlet said it was praiseworthy 
that other writers should refer to the moral causes of the 
earthquake, but he personally had no intention or incli- 
nation to preach a sermon on this subject. No sermon 
could be more effective than the immediate fear of God 
that the earthquake itself occasioned. He and other sci- 
entists (though here not his brother) believed that it was 
Hell fire, or something very like it, that caused the earth- 
quake, and therefore there was quite enough for every- 
body to be frightened about without any pious persua- 
sion. Joachim Jose thought that even this mild concession 
to the current theological ravings was rather silly. He ex- 
plained to the best of his ability the physical causes of 
an earthquake. All he had to say after that was let us 
adore the omnipotence of the Creator who causes all these 
secret happenings of nature, and let us recognize the in- 
competence of our finite understanding in the presence 
of the inscrutable operations of an infinite Being. Joachim 
Jose Moreira de Mendona had nothing to say about Lis- 
bon's abominable sins; nothing to say about the wrath of 

Chapter Four 



JLhe first effect of so shattering a disaster on tie 
minds of most of the ordinary people is a complete sur- 
render to the feeling that men and women are powerless 
puppets in a for ever broken world. It seems that there 
is nothing to be done but to run away from the blazing 
ruins and lament, aimlessly and hopelessly, a calamity 
beyond human comprehension and beyond human rem- 
edy. This mood changed quickly in Lisbon under the im- 
mediate comfort of PombaFs firm handling and bustling 
orders; but directly opposed to his steadying influence 
and to the straight-forward task of reorganization and re- 
pair was the bitter religious despondency caused by the 
common belief that the origin of the great earthquake 
was supernatural. If this were a deliberate chastisement 
by God of a sinful people, as was generally asserted by 
the clergy, the mechanical task of recovery was of little 
importance compared with a first and pressing duty of 
making peace with God and imploring Him not to punish 
further His now penitent people. It is understandable that 
in a deeply religious land this should quickly become a 
dominant thought, and to sustain it there came from all 
sides abundant evidence of miraculous happenings that 


H4 The Lisbon Earthquake 

attested the supernatural character of the earthquake; 
moreover, it was not long before elaborate public acts of 
contrition gave open expression to this feeling and ac- 
knowledged the wickedness of a population thus humbled 
beneath the scourge of a still wrathful God. 

An indication of the public attitude was the appoint- 
ment of St. Francis Borgia, who had died in 1572, as spe- 
cial patron and protector of the realm against further 
earthquakes and similar disasters, it being already known 
that the Jesuit saint was proficient to a high degree in 
warding off such horrors. 1 At the special request of the 
King, submitted through Pombal, the Pope, Benedict XIV, 
made the appointment in May 1756, and people felt much 
comforted thereby. St. Francis, fourth Duke of Gandia, 
on the east coast of Spain, and third General of the Jes- 
uits, great-grandson of the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, 
had had a Portuguese wife, Leonor de Castro, and dur- 
ing his lifetime he had on occasion been closely con- 
nected with Portuguese affairs. Now, the King of Portu- 
gal claimed relationship with him, and in Coimbra, where 
there was the earliest Jesuit college in Portugal and where 
the university was believed to be the object of his spe- 
cial care, the new patron was welcomed with elaborate 
religious celebrations and described as a saint who was 
"in large measure" Portuguese. With St. Francis as pro- 
tector, it was felt that nothing could go wrong, and, 
though Lisbon continued to suffer alarmingly from re- 
peated earthquakes over many months, in Coimbra at 

1 Even so, he did not get the post without competition from St. Theo- 
tonius and the Martyrs of Morocco; St. Agatha, enormously successful in 
dealing with Sicilian earthquakes and eruptions of Etna, was also rec- 
ommended; see Vida Prodigiosa da grande Virgen, e Martyr Bta Agueda 
espedalissima Advogada contra os Incendios, e Terremotos. Lisbon, 1756. 

The Wrath of God (i) 115 

any rate nothing much did happen in the way of further 

There were many stories of miraculous happenings dur- 
ing and after the earthquake, of wonderful healing with- 
out the aid of doctors or medicines, and particularly of 
escapes from death so marvellous that it could only be 
supposed in these cases Heaven had arrested the laws of 
nature. People emerged unharmed from painful imprison- 
ment in the ruins that lasted several days; one little girl 
of fifteen who had been trapped clutching an image of 
St. Anthony was found safe and unhurt by Cardinal Sam- 
paio of the Patriarchal Church in the wreckage of her 
home in the Rua dos Canos behind Sao Domingos after 
nine days without food. The bodies of officiating priests 
who had been killed were sometimes found in a state of 
miraculous preservation. In the Hermitage of Nossa Se- 
nhora da Vitoria in the parish of Sao Nicolau in the 
lower town the vested body of a Carmelite priest who 
had been celebrating Mass was found completely un- 
crushed or damaged after three or four months of burial 
under the rubble, though there was a charred, corrupted 
body close beside him. 

One very important and consoling discovery was that 
the catastrophe of i November was not a cruelly sudden 
stroke that fell without warning; however wicked they 
might have been, the people thought God should have 
given them some advance notice of the punishment to 
come in order that there might be an opportunity for re- 
penting; and, in fact, it was found that Lisbon had been 
told of the coming disaster by prophecies to which in- 
sufficient attention had been paid. Christ Himself had 
told Maria Joanna, a nun living in Lourial, that He was 

116 The Lisbon Earthquake 

deeply offended by the wickedness of Portugal, particu- 
larly the sins of Lisbon, and that appropriate punishment 
was shortly to be inflicted on this graceless people. The 
saintly lady died in March 1755, but the warning of her 
vision had become well known by 1754. It was now re- 
alized that her prayers alone had caused the expected 
punishment to be delayed until after her death; but by 
that time the accumulation of sins, added to the blatant 
disregard of her message, made the chastisement, when 
it did come, the more severe. Another nun had five times 
told her confessor of the impending disaster, imploring 
him to bid the people mend their ways and pray to be 
spared from their awful fate; but her message was ig- 
nored. The most desperate efforts were made to turn the 
unforeseen into the foreseen. In 1752 a Sebastianist, that 
is to say a believer in the messianic return of King Se- 
bastian, whose death at the battle of Alcazar-Kebir in 
1578 was the prelude to the CastiHan usurpation, had 
prophesied that on All Saints* Day a formidable event 
would herald the arrival of the messiah at Cacilhas and 
Lisbon on two stated dates in the following spring. Noth- 
ing happened on All Saints' Day in 1752, and the proph- 
ecy was circulated again for 1753, and then, after a 
second failure, for 1754. When an earthquake did happen 
on All Saints 7 Day, 1755, the prophecy was recalled with- 
out its Sebastianist context or memory of its previous 
failures, and the people said Portugal had had a won- 
derful prophet who had foretold the earthquake. 

There were also prophecies, after the event, of even 
worse misfortune to follow that would complete the pun- 
ishment of Lisbon, prophecies to which the continuing 
series of earth-tremors gave a most unpleasant signif- 

The Wrath of God (i) 117 

icance. It was rumoured that as on the first day of No- 
vember so on the last day of that month there would 
be another colossal quake. As this did not take place, 
the second earthquake was promised for the fortieth day 
after the first, and then for other dates in December and 
January. On the night of 30 April 1756 timorous people 
stayed awake all night in gardens and open spaces, dread- 
ing an awful earthquake that a priest had said would 
take place on i May. He was imprisoned, but the foolish 
prophecies continued. The approach of i November 1756, 
the first anniversary of the great earthquake, was likewise 
dreaded as an obvious occasion on which Lisbon was go- 
ing to be finally obliterated. A nun of Semide, close to 
Coimbra, is named as one of the culprits whose prophe- 
cies spread alarm at this time, and the Jesuits, rightly 
or wrongly, were also blamed. By 29 October the scare 
had become so great that a proclamation had to be is- 
sued forbidding anyone to leave Lisbon under any pre- 
text during the next three days, and the city was ringed 
with troops. A light shock on the night of the twenty- 
ninth naturally made matters worse. This deliberate agi- 
tation of nerves already seriously upset seems to have 
been a persistent nuisance, and it was done sometimes 
quite deliberately by robbers who wanted to pillage the 
premises they had frightened people into evacuating; but 
there was also a steady supply of religious eccentrics tell- 
ing the people that there was going to be an even bigger 
earthquake, or a colossal flood, or a total burning-up of 
the land by the sun. The worst offender was known as 
the Prophet of Leiria, but one sensible Franciscan who 
was protesting against these harmful prognostications also 
blamed "letters from Rome" and the activities of priests 

n8 The Lisbon Earthquake 

in Lisbon, Another wise writer traced the Sebastianist 
prophecy back to its source; but the scared inhabitants 
of Lisbon paid no attention. Most of them were in a mood 
to believe anything. 2 

To all this was added in the first days after the earth- 
quake distress at many reported cases of the destruction 
of the consecrated Host and of sacred images in the 
churches and in the homes of the people. There were 
some brave and successful escapes from ruined and burn- 
ing churches by priests who, abandoning all other duties, 
risked their lives in order to get the Host to a place of 
safety; but rescue was not always possible, and an ago- 
nizing consciousness of brutal sacrilege committed made 
the horrors of the earthquake worse. 

The fate of the images caused equal pain, for all were 
loved, and many were famous objects of veneration be- 
lieved to be endowed with miraculous powers. At least 
twenty figures of Christ could work miracles, and two or 
three of them could speak; there were over a dozen cel- 
ebrated images of the Virgin with notable miraculous 
powers; and some of the hundreds of images of St. An- 
thony of Padua, the patron saint of Portugal, who was 
born in Lisbon, had very remarkable endowments, includ- 
ing surprising powers of movement. One was known to 
have jumped down a weU in order to retrieve some stolen 
offerings, and it was quite a small thing that another of 
them should have been found weeping after the earth- 

2 The alarms were riot all based on hysterical or deceitful prophecies. 
A Tagus pilot had observed that on the night before the great earth- 
quake, 3* October, the turn of the tide was two hours late, and he no- 
ticed that this occurred again on 10 December, so he warned people in 
Lisbon that it was inadvisable to sleep indoors that night, and he was 
justified to the extent that there were two sharp shocks about 5 A.M. on 
the morning of n December. 

The Wrath of God (i) 119 

quake. The renowned image of the saint in the church 
of his birthplace, next to the Cathedral, with his chapel 
and all its furnishings escaped the ferocious fire that burnt 
out the greater part of the building, a fire so hot that it 
melted the silver and bronze ornaments therein. 

Many other images were miraculously preserved. A cel- 
ebrated figure of Christ Carrying the Cross (Senhor dos 
Passos) from the large Augustinian Convent of Graga, 
crowning one of the hills on the east side of the city 
(now in part a barracks), was rescued unharmed from 
the church after it had been buried under fallen ma- 
sonry for a week; it was an image to which the Portu- 
guese royalties were particularly devoted, and it was dis- 
interred at royal command by a party of grandess. The 
image Nossa Senhora da Graga in the same church was 
broken to pieces, but her head and hands survived for 
making up into a new image, and a particularly cele- 
brated crucifix was excavated unharmed. In the Church 
of Nossa Senhora da Penha de Franga, farther to the 
north, the miracle-working image of the Virgin was re- 
covered on Sunday, the day after the earthquake, from 
the ruins of the Capella Mor and displayed to the peo- 
ple to their great comfort and joy, and the Host was 
found intact on the Monday. The image of Nossa Se- 
nhora do Carmo was rescued from the ruined convent 
and set up in a tent on the Campo Grande, where it at 
once became the object of fervent devotion. In the hope- 
less ruins of the Franciscan church, which at the time 
of the earthquake was being rebuilt after a fire, the im- 
age of Nosso Senhor dos Desemparados (Jesus of the Des- 
titute) escaped damage, and in May 1756 a fiery sermon 
was preached in a temporary wooden church erected by 

120 The Lisbon Earthquake 

the order in their quinta adjoining the Rato demonstrat- 
ing that this astounding miracle was a sign that Our Lord 
had not deserted the Portuguese people, even in the hour 
of bitter punishment with which He had chastised them. 
In the Igreja da Se (the present Cathedral) a raging fire 
stopped suddenly on approaching the holy image of Nossa 
Senhora a Grande, leaving her safe with her background 
curtains, her rich robes, and even the flowers in her hand. 
Other images of the Virgin wept over ruined Lisbon, and 
it was said that in the Hieronymite Church at Belem the 
figure of Our Lady that was crouched at the foot of the 
Cross sunk even lower towards the ground, and, overcome 
with grief at the terrible punishment of the Lisbon peo- 
ple, cried aloud, "It is enough, my Son, it is enough/' 
All over the afflicted areas there were many tales told 
of this kind, and this happened also in Spain in the towns 
badly hit by the earthquake. For example, at Huelva in 
the ruins of a convent the Host was discovered unbroken 
and unharmed, miraculously protected by a single tile 
that was able to withstand the enormous weight of broken 
masonry pressing down upon it. 

At the time of the earthquake many people escaped 
into the streets clutching images of the Virgin or of the 
saints from which they would not under any circum- 
stances be parted; but many of these precious domestic 
possessions inevitably perished in the earthquake itself 
and in the fire. The devotion of the Portuguese to the 
figures in their private oratories was not much less than 
that paid to the celebrated miracle-working images in the 
churches, and they lived with these domestic lares on the 
most loving and intimate terms; in fact, they inflicted 
little punishments on some of them if they were unduly 

The Wrath of God (i) 121 

slow in answering prayers. Figures of Lisbon's patron 
saint, St. Anthony, had a specially close connexion with 
the household fortunes, as he was charged with the duty 
of recovering anything that was lost, and it was not un- 
common for his image to be reproached by being bound 
with ribbons, or put into the corner, or banished to a 
dark cellar, or even suspended in the garden cistern un- 
der threat of immersion. Whenever what was lost was 
found, the saint was restored in honour to his proper 
place, and there was a little family celebration. 3 

The destruction of so many of these household images 
was, in relation to the damage done in the churches, a 
very small matter, but it added to the general religious 
discomfort and unsettling of a naturally pious folk, and 
increased their consciousness of the earthquake's super- 
natural significance. How long, after the first terror was 
over and there had been some time for reflection, the 
wretched people continued to feel keenly that a sinful 
Lisbon had been punished by God, there is now no means 
of telling, and several writers allege rather bitterly that 
the determination to lead a reformed and pious life evap- 

8 The Chevalier de Oliveira (see p. 155) says this was the custom in 
his mother's house, and he described how he himself treated his own 
two favourite images of St. Anthony and St. Gonzales de Amarante when 
these two saints, being occupied with other matters, would not soften 
the heart of a girl with whom he was in love; they went into disgrace 
under his bed and finished up in the water tank, and would have been 
drowned if the young lady had not unexpectedly saved them by writing 
the Chevalier an encouraging letter. He said he had a friend who pos- 
sessed an image of St. Anthony with a movable head, and if the saint 
did not grant the favours required, the image's head was twisted round 
so that he could not see the child Christ in his arms, and this treatment 
nearly always produced results; but the best way to make St. Anthony 
answer prayers, said the Chevalier, was to take the infant Jesus out of 
his arms. He could never bear that punishment for long. F. Xavier de 
Oliveira, Amusement p6riodique, i, pp. 347-57. London, 1751. 

122 The Lisbon Earthquake 

orated very quickly indeed; but this was not for lack of 
chiding, and we know that in the days following the 
earthquake and for many months afterwards the people 
were constantly reminded by repeated earthquake-shocks 
of their danger, and in sermons and pamphlets of their 
wickedness and of the justice of the city's fate. 

In Lisbon the frantic preaching and exhortations be- 
gan almost at once after the earthquake, but the catas- 
trophe itself was of such a kind that official gestures of 
repentance on a large scale could not be arranged until 
nearly a fortnight had passed. There were, however, two 
solemn penitential processions organized by the Patriarch 
with the approval of the King, one on Sunday, 16 No- 
vember, and the other on 13 December, a Saturday, ex- 
actly six weeks after the disaster. They took place on the 
western outskirts of the city, well away from the con- 
gested ruins of the central burnt-out area, starting at the 
Ermida de Sao Joachim in the Alcantara district, a re- 
cent building that had escaped harm and was temporarily 
a headquarters of the staff of the displaced Patriarchal 
Church, and proceeding thence up the hill to the church 
of the Palace of the Necessidades. The King and Queen 
and the princesses took part in the first. After the second 
procession, attended by all the leading ecclesiastical and 
civic officials, there was a ceremony of footwashing con- 
ducted by the Papal Nuncio and the Oratory Fathers. A 
large number of the monastic establishments that had not 
been put completely out of action by the earthquake or- 
ganized processions of their own. One arranged by the 
Theatine Fathers of the ruined Convento de Nossa Se- 
nhora da Divina Providencia (also known as the Con- 
vento dos Caetanos) took place on the Campo Grande, 

The Wrath of God (i) 123 

where the order had an hospicio, on a dark stormy eve- 
ning after incessant rain, those taking part trudging bare- 
foot through the mud and puddles. 

Lisbon, the people were told, had been a very sinful 
city indeed. It was greedy, devoted to material wealth, 
immoral, licentious, and irreverent, the behaviour in some 
of the churches being, it was alleged, outrageously scan- 
dalous. For permitting this misuse of sacred buildings, the 
clergy had to, and did, take their share of the blame, and 
in doing so they were able to explain why God in His 
anger had destroyed so many churches, great and small, 
for in His disgust God had been forced to the extreme 
course of abandoning His own altars, even as once long 
ago He had for somewhat similar reasons (Hophni and 
Phineas are mentioned as relevant examples of evil-doers ) 
allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the 
Philistines. In no other way could the Almighty prove the 
really terrible nature of His anger. Thus, it was under- 
standable that God should not only have destroyed His 
own churches, but have spared a street full of brothels; 
for God pitied the miserable creatures that frequented 
such places, but could not pardon those who profaned 
the buildings set apart for the worship of Himself and 
for the religious instruction of the faithful. This theme 
was elaborated again and again, and is also to be found 
in many of the earthquake sermons outside Portugal. The 
Archbishop of Mexico, for instance, spared his own clergy 
nothing in his pastoral letter of March 1756. Hophni and 
Phineas again; allegations that church funds were mis- 
used; the churches themselves used as shops and as places 
for making love; it was indeed to be expected that in 

124 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Central America, just as in the Old World, God would 
strike these polluted temples crashing to the ground. 

The classic example of the way in which God has thus 
pointedly expressed his displeasure was provided by Se- 
ville. After the earthquake on i November the Cathedral 
had had to be evacuated, and its dearly loved image, 
Maria Santisinia de la Sede, removed, and it was not 
until 28 February 1756 that Our Lady returned to her 
shrine in great pomp and with much rejoicing, on which 
occasion a ferocious sermon was preached by a renowned 
orator, a canon of the Cathedral, Francisco Joseph de 
Olazaval y Olayzola, one that is outstanding in interest 
even in a comprehensive survey of the remarkable earth- 
quake-sermons of that time. Why had they all, with their 
beloved image, to go into exile, he asked? Here was a 
second cleansing of the Temple, and one only too well 
deserved. There had been deplorable and scandalous mis- 
behaviour within its holy precincts; that was why, though 
their protectress the Virgin had seen to it that God did 
not wreak a full vengeance on the city over which she 
presided, the Almighty had spoken His mind in an un- 
mistakable way by striking at the Cathedral and its fa- 
mous tower, the Giralda, leaving the rest of the city more 
or less unharmed. A victory over the Church for the sec- 
ular buildings of Seville! The Audiencia, the Ayuntami- 
ento (Town Hall), and the Casa Lonja (Exchange) had 
all escaped without damage, and indeed the town had on 
the whole suffered very little and there had been very 
few casualties. It was the Cathedral that was the special 
object of God's anger. In view of the deplorable misde- 
meanours Olazaval mentioned in considerable detail, his 

The Wrath of God (i) 125 

case was obviously a strong one; but the congregation no 
doubt knew that the Canon's standards for behaviour In 
church were exceptionally high. Within the choir and 
sanctuary, he insisted, no mundane thought at all is per- 
missible, and he told his hearers o the sad lapse o the 
seventeenth-century Juan de Palafox, Bishop o Osma, 
who so far forgot himself as to want to know the time, 
the worldly time, when taking part in a service in the 
choir of his Cathedral in order to keep an appointment 
elsewhere that was a proper part of his pastoral duties. 
He felt for his watch, but it was not in his pocket, and 
he thought he must have left it at home. When he was 
leaving after the service he put his hand in his pocket 
again, and there was the watch. God had miraculously 
removed it and replaced it, in order to teach him that 
no worldly consideration at all should have entered his 
mind while he was engaged in his devotions. 

Some of the clergy did try hard to discourage this dol- 
orous harping on the sins of the time and the accompany- 
ing warnings of dreadful punishment that might still fall 
on the sinners; for instance, in Lisbon a Franciscan, F. 
Antonio de S. Jose, who had worked in India, seeing what 
were likely to be the undesirable effects of this continual 
hullabaloo about the city's wickedness, published a tiny 
pamphlet which he described as a Discurso Mordl, and 
in this he wisely distinguished between teaching folk to 
fear God and alarming them into downright panic. God 
is close to a penitent person, he said, and does not de- 
sire to hurt him. There was no real reason to suppose 
that Lisbon was going to suffer another great earthquake. 
And so on. 

But other preachers tried to show that all things con- 

126 The Lisbon Earthquake 

sidered Lisbon had got off lightly. This was a mistake. 
The people, in spite of all the rantings on the contrary 
side, were not persuaded that the punishment inflicted 
was less than the wicked city of Lisbon deserved; they 
thought, knowing that there was a very large number of 
ordinary good men and women in Lisbon, to say nothing 
of a great many innocent children, that Lisbon had suf- 
fered more than it deserved. The truth is that the Lisbon 
earthquake had forced many of the survivors and those 
that sympathized with them to ask themselves if God 
really was a loving Father. It was a question asked with 
greater insistence outside Portugal; but it was asked in 
Lisbon too, and it was one to which, under the painful 
circumstances of an earthquake of great severity, the 
clergy did not find it easy to give a convincing affirma- 
tive answer. 

In this context a sermon preached fifteen months after 
the earthquake in a temporary church of the Franciscans 
in Campolide, a high outlying district in north-west Lis- 
bon, is of great interest. The preacher called it an Ex- 
hortagdo consolatoria de Jesus Christo, and it was pub- 
lished in the spring of 1757, a time when Lisbon was al- 
ready making a strong recovery, both in rebuilding and 
in commerce, and there were justifiable hopes that the 
city would later on be completely restored to its former 
prosperity. It was a time in which it was appropriate to 
assess the whole tragedy of the earthquake in retrospect, 
and to sum up its spiritual significance. The preacher was 
Antonio do Sacramento, and his address took the form of 
an imaginary speech by Jesus Himself to a congregation 
consisting of the entire Portuguese nation. The text put 
into the mouth of Our Lord was: 

The Wrath of God (i) 127 

O my people, what have I done unto thee? and 
wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. (Mi- 
cah vi. 3. ) 

Jesus said that the Portuguese nation might be proud 
to think that its people were specially singled out, above 
all other nations, as the object of His love. The earth- 
quake, always remembering that God's wisdom is beyond 
the comprehension of men, was an act of love, not just 
a chastisement; for its purpose was to bring Portugal, as 
a beloved child, back into the comforting arms of Jesus 
Himself. Portugal had indeed been sinful, and Our Lord 
had been deeply offended; but, even so, the punishment 
He had inflicted had been relatively light. Just think, for 
instance, what the Flood must have been like! Portugal 
really deserved to be swallowed up completely and all 
its people sent to eternal damnation. Jesus had therefore 
been most merciful, sparing the lives of most of the city's 
inhabitants. He had not wanted to scare the Portuguese 
out of their wits, for that was not His loving way of 
dealing with mankind; but He had wanted to prevent His 
chosen people from further foolishness and to change their 
hearts. It was true that they had suffered; but Jesus had 
suffered much more horribly Himself in His Passion. If 
someone lost a fortune in the earthquake, it was because 
men must learn somehow or other not to overrate riches. 
Those who lost their lives were lucky people, the recipi- 
ents of Our Lord's special favour, for they died quickly 
and mercifully, unburdened by all the sins they would 
have committed had they lived. The Portuguese were rec- 
ommended to read Isaiah xxix and Revelation xviii if they 
were in any doubt about the justice of the earthquake, 

128 The Lisbon Earthquake 

or were deluded by philosophers into thinking it was 
merely a natural accident. There must be no mistake on 
this point, and Lisbon, the modern Babylon, could, and 
perhaps should, have been destroyed like Sodom and Go- 
morrah. The Portuguese must try to recognize what Jesus 
had done for Portugal. He had made it a world power, 
a State universally feared for its strength, wealth, and far- 
flung dominions. It was Jesus who had rescued the Por- 
tuguese from the Spanish usurpation. Jesus had lived on 
earth, had been a man, and knew how to establish a na- 
tion in security. The Portuguese must stop lamenting, and 
trust in Him. The earthly punishments He inflicted were 
no more than the corrections of a loving father, and not 
the sentences of an angry judge. Come again into my 
arms, said Jesus. 

Today this sounds at least ridiculous, if not actually 
blasphemous, but Antonio do Sacramento was sincere in 
thus presenting to the people what was intended to be 
an acceptable theodicy, a justification of the God who had 
it seemed so cruelly hurt them. And in his ardent out- 
pouring of comfortable words we can see the theodicy 
taking shape. The reason why God had overthrown Lis- 
bon was not only because He intended to shock the whole 
of Christendom into a state of penitent obedience to 
Him by the staggering destruction of such a celebrated 
and wealthy city, one that was perhaps, thanks to its 
maritime trade, the best-known city in Europe; but also 
because Portugal was a kingdom under the special and 
principal care of Heaven, so that according to the rules 
of the divine discipline, the Portuguese, for their own 
good and as a result of the heavenly priority that was 
their due, were singled out for the honour of being the 

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The Wrath of God (i) 129 

first to be punished and those who were punished most 
severely. The warrant for this heavenly favouritism, to 
which the opening passage of Antonio do Sacramento's 
sermon alludes, was the message delivered by Christ Him- 
self in a vision vouchsafed to the first King of Portugal, 
Afonso Henriques, on the eve of his famous victory over 
die Moors at the battle of Ourique in 1139. After the 
earthquake, the Portuguese were many times reminded of 
the comforting relevance of this extraordinary happening, 
just as they were reminded of it again in the dark days 
of the Napoleonic oppression. 

The battle of Ourique is an embarrassing subject for 
an historian, even without the encumbrance of a stupen- 
dous miracle. It is not known for certain where it took 
place, and the traditional site of the battle, near the town 
of Ourique in the southern end of the Alentejo province, 
south-west of Castro Verde on the main road to Faro, is, 
as most modern writers agree, probably not the real scene 
of the contest; at least two more likely "Ouriques" are 
to be found much farther north; but the Portuguese of 
the time of the earthquake accepted the site in the south, 
and there is a church at Castro Verde decorated with 
early eighteenth-century azulejos illustrating the battle 
and the vision. The contemporary or nearly contemporary 
medieval chronicles give us very little information about 
the actual campaign, but it seems unlikely that the vic- 
tory won by Afonso Henriques was a decisive event in 
the war of liberation, for the Moors were fighting again 
north of the Tagus in the following year; Ourique did, 
however, have some considerable political importance. 
Before it Afonso Henriques was a prince; after it he 

130 The Lisbon Earthquake 

styled himself King of the Portuguese. The battle was 
therefore a proper subject for the most highly imagina- 
tive development as a legend. 

The story of the miraculous appearance of Christ at 
the battle of Ourique is as old as the middle of the fif- 
teenth century, but the form in which the Portuguese 
knew it best was the relation of it in the Juramento 
(Oath) of Afonso Henriques, a document first published 
in 1602 on the authority of a manuscript discovered at 
Alcobaa in 1596. This manuscript was suspected to be 
bogus even in the seventeenth century, but its defenders 
were tough and numerous, and in fact, right up to and 
including the twentieth century, the controversy about its 
historical value has from time to time flared up into one 
of the most passionately disputed rows in Portuguese his- 
tory. Anyone who doubts whether the tale was still gen- 
erally believed in the middle of the eighteenth century 
should look at the thick harvest of pamphlets published 
on the subject in the middle of the nineteenth century 
after the historian Alexandre Herculano (1810-77) had 
inserted at the end of the first volume of the Histdria de 
Portugal a seemingly inoffensive note 4 in which he re- 
ferred to the story of the apparition as a fable and the 
Alcobaga document, by that time in the Archive Nacional, 
as a forgery. He was almost overwhelmed by a raging 
flood of either sad or angry reproach, and was called the 
"Luther of the Ajuda" (he was librarian in the Ajuda 
palace). In the eighteenth century the tide against this 
honest man would have run even stronger. He would 
probably have been burnt. After all, as was commonly 

4 Histdria de Portugal, i, pp. 486-87. Lisbon, 1846. 

The Wrath of Cod (i) 131 

known, the arms of Portugal (Fig. 3), familiar and to be 
seen all over the city, were visible proof that Christ's 
message to Afonso Henriques had been delivered and its 
commands obeyed. 

In his Juramento Afonso Henriques swore that with his 
unworthy eyes he had actually seen Jesus Christ on the 
Cross. It happened this way. He was with his army on 

Fig. 3. The Arms of Portugal 

the plain of Ourique in Alemtejo about to fight a con- 
federation of Moorish kings who opposed him with a huge 
army. The Portuguese had become alarmed at the pros- 
pect of such an unequal contest, and Afonso was there- 
fore greatly perturbed; but on opening his Bible he read 
the comforting story of Gideon who, encouraged before 
battle by a dream, overcame with his small force the 
great army of the Midianites, and he prayed to Christ 
to strengthen him and his army so that he might van- 
quish the heretics assembled against him. In his sleep he, 
too, had a dream and it was that an old man visited him 
and promised him victory and, what is more, a vision of 
Christ Himself. On waking he found that the old man of 

132 The Lisbon Earthquake 

the dream was there in real life to see him, and he re- 
peated the two promises to Afonso, adding that Christ 
would look favourably on him and his royal house up to 
his sixteenth descendant, when the succession would fail, 
though, even then, Christ would continue His special pro- 
tection of the Portuguese people. 

The next night at an arranged signal (the ringing of 
a bell in the old man's near-by hermitage) Afonso Hen- 
riques left the camp by himself, taking his sword and 
shield, and he saw suddenly a splendour in the eastern 
sky, gradually growing more and more brilliant until in 
its centre shone out the Cross itself, floating about ten 
cubits height from the ground and more dazzling than 
the sun, and stretched on the Cross was the Lord Him- 
self, and all around was a host of white figures, whom 
Afonso imagined to be angels, Flinging aside sword and 
shield and casting off his cloak and his shoes, he flung 
himself prostrate before the vision, dissolved in tears; but 
courage came and he cried out to Jesus, asking why the 
Lord showed Himself to one who believed in Him so 
completely and not to the heretic forces, who needed just 
such a vision to convince them of the truth of Christi- 
anity. In gentle tones Christ answered that His purpose 
was to secure the establishment of Afonso's kingdom. He 
would win the forthcoming battle and all others fought 
by him against the infidel, and Afonso's warriors would 
immediately beg him to assume the title of King. "I," 
said Christ, "am founder and bestower of kingdoms and 
empires, and it is my wish to create through you and 
your descendants an illustrious state that shall carry my 
name all over the world, even to the most distant nations. 

The Wrath of God (i) 133 

And in order that your descendants may know who has 
given them this kingdom, you shall take as your arms 
a shield blazoned with my five wounds, the price with 
which I redeemed mankind, and also with the thirty 
pieces o silver, the price for which I was sold to the 
Jews. Everyone will know that your kingdom is specially 
dedicated to me, and it shall maintain the faith in purity 
and always be notable for its piety/' Afonso then asked 
for a blessing on himself, his descendants, and his peo- 
ple, and he asked that if Christ should ever want to 
punish the Portuguese, he would turn His wrath on the 
King and his royal line, rather than on the people them- 
selves. Jesus promised that He would never desert the 

Then Afonso returned to his captains, and it was as 
Christ had said; they had recovered their courage, and 
they insisted he should call himself King. And then Afonso 
related Christ's promise, and swore on the Bible that the 
story was true, and in token thereof he commanded that 
his descendants should always bear the divinely blazoned 
arms of Portugal, the chagas or wounds, set crosswise, 
having upon them the thirty pieces of silver, and for 
crest the serpent of Moses, representing Christ. All this 
is set down in the famous Oath or Juramento, finally 
drawn up at Coimbra on 29 October 1152, signed and 
sealed by the King, and witnessed and sealed by a very 
imposing list of people. 

An exacting historian cannot be expected to like this 
document. Among many reasons for doubting its authen- 
ticity he would fasten on the prophecy that the royal 
line would fail at the sixteenth generation, and assume 

134 The Lisbon Earthquake 

therefrom that the Juramento was composed after the end 
of the house of Avis in 1590, for after the reign of Af onso 
Henriques there were sixteen kings ( Sancho I to Cardinal 
Henry) before the Spanish usurpation in the reign of 
Philip II; 5 but the Juramento was not commonly sub- 
jected to this kind of criticism, and the fact is that for 
a long time it was commonly accepted as a plausible 
document, one that describes with substantial accuracy a 
heavenly vision that was seen by the first King of Por- 
tugal and a divine promise that was actually made. More- 
over, Christ's prophecies had been fulfilled. The Portu- 
guese had spread the Christian faith over the whole world; 
they had enormous colonial possessions; Brazil with its 
seemingly inexhaustible wealth was still theirs; they had 
indeed reaped the benefit of Christ's gracious favour. To 
settle the matter, everybody knew that the arms of Por- 
tugal were (with a simplification in the number of the 
pieces of silver) exactly as Christ had ordered and as 
Afonso Henriques had in consequence accepted for him- 
self and for those who came after him. 

Those, therefore, whose business it was to chide the 
Portuguese people in these days of calamity used the 
legend of the battle of Ourique to show that the sense 
of guilt expected of so sinful a nation should be indeed 
both bitter and profound. Christ's own people had failed 
Him, and they on whom He had loaded His favours stood 

5 The brief reign of Antonio I, Prior of Crato, for a few weeks in the 
summer of 1580 is understandably not included. By counting all male 
sons of each king up to the son that actually succeeded to the throne, 
a case lias been made out for supposing that the prophecy refers to the 
two-year interregnum (1383-85) between Fernando, the last Burgundiaa 
king, and the first King of the house of Avis, John I ( an illegitimate son 
of the Burgundian Pedro I); but the Spanish usurpation is much more 
likely to be the kind of break to which the Juramento so anxiously refers. 

The Wrath of God (i) 135 

now signally disgraced before all the world as principal 
offenders against Him, as ringleaders in sinful ingratitude. 

Again and again we ask ourselves how much ordinary 
people listened to and were affected by these exhorta- 
tions during the months following the earthquake, and at 
what pace and in what stages the mood of helpless sur- 
render to fear changed to a recognition that it was a 
proper duty for man to show courage and try to take 
possession of, and repair, his ruined environment. The 
true state of affairs cannot now be exactly determined, 
but it is, however, quite certain that the continued ser- 
monizing and reproach did have a seriously disturbing 
effect on the people and was a positive hindrance to re- 
covery. One reason for saying this is that in an extreme 
case authority was compelled to put a stop to what was 
considered to be unwholesome and subversive nagging. 
This is the banishment from Lisbon of the Jesuit, Gabriel 
Malagrida, a brave, saintly, and at that time rather crazy 
man, whose revoltingly cruel execution in the Rossio 
Square in 1761, for which Pombal has been held respon- 
sible, shocked people inside and outside Portugal not 
much less than the news of the Lisbon earthquake itself. 

Malagrida was an Italian, born in 1689, but he had 
become in part Portuguese as his chosen work had made 
him one of the most celebrated missionaries of Brazil, fa- 
mous for his inexhaustible energy, the moving eloquence 
of his preaching, and his astonishing miraculous powers. 
He first went to Portugal in 1749 to ask for money to 
build a convent at Para (now Belem at the mouth of the 
Amazon), and he was received by King Joao V with the 
honours and humble reverence that might appropriately 

136 The Lisbon Earthquake 

have been paid to a reincarnation of one of the Twelve 
Apostles. He was present at the death-bed of the King, 
and the Pope, Benedict XIV, said Joao V was indeed for- 
tunate to have died in the arms of this holy man. He left 
Portugal in 1751, after having promised to return when- 
ever it should become necessary to prepare Joao V's con- 
sort, Maria Ana of Austria, for death, and it was for this 
purpose that he did come back to Portugal in February 

Once again he had a position of dominating spiritual 
influence, but in the new reign his power was opposed 
by Pombal and the courtiers of his party, and the exces- 
sively tactless and impetuous missionary was in the end 
denied unrestricted access to the Queen Mother. When 
she died in August 1754, Malagrida depended afterwards 
upon the patronage of Prince Pedro, and the friendship 
of the Tavora family and many of Pombal's enemies at 
court. He still had an enormous prestige for holiness, but 
he was at this time a wild, white-bearded eccentric whose 
power resided not in his political opportunities but in his 
unquenchable religious candour. He was a specialist in 
conducting retreats, which he advocated as necessary for 
all, and his great hope was to supplement the existing 
Jesuit houses in Lisbon with another building specially 
set apart for the purpose. 

PombaFs loathing of the Jesuits and their colossal po- 
litical and educational power throughout all the Portu- 
guese territories, especially Brazil, and their palace pres- 
tige in Portugal, had nothing to do with the earthquake; 
but they were even more objectionable to him after the 
disaster because he thought the Society was responsible 
for most of the alarmist preaching and frightening proph- 

The Wrath of God (i) 137 

ecies. Pombal wanted the 1755 earthquake written off as 
a natural event, and he particularly resented the mischie- 
vous warnings of an earthquake to happen on i Novem- 
ber 1756; yet at the very time when these rumours, at- 
tributed to Jesuits, were circulating, Malagrida, who had 
already deeply offended the chief minister and must have 
been the most detested preacher on his list of culprits, 
committed in PombaFs eyes the outrageous offence of 
publishing in the late autumn of 1756 a pamphlet called 
Juizo da verdadeira causa do terremoto&n opinion on 
the true cause of the earthquake that was obviously a 
printed version of the sermon he had been preaching 
again and again in the first months after the earthquake 
happened, exactly the sort of sermon that Pombal con- 
sidered to be most monstrously harmful. The fame of the 
preacher, miracle-working, holy, passionately eloquent, 
and a priest with an enormous personal following, gave 
the little pamphlet of some thirty pages a special signif- 
icance. It could not be ignored, nor could anyone fail to 
recognize it as a challenge to the minister himself; for 
Malagrida flatly contradicted PombaFs view about the 
natural cause of the earthquake, and then did his best 
to destroy the peace of mind of the people assisting in 
the necessary business of recovery. 

Malagrida said: "Learn, O Lisbon, that the destroyers 
of our houses, palaces, churches, and convents, the cause 
of the death of so many people and of the flames that 
devoured such vast treasures, are your abominable sins, 
and not comets, stars, vapours and exhalations, and sim- 
ilar natural phenomena. Tragic Lisbon is now a mound 
of ruins. Would that it were less difficult to think of some 
method of restoring the place; but it has been abandoned, 

138 The Lisbon Earthquake 

and the refugees from the city live in despair. As for the 
dead, what a great harvest of sinful souls such disasters 
send to Hell! It is scandalous to pretend the earthquake 
was just a natural event, for if that be true, there is no 
need to repent and to try to avert the wrath of God, and 
not even the Devil himself could invent a false idea more 
likely to lead us all to irreparable ruin. Holy people had 
prophesied the earthquake was coming, yet the city con- 
tinued in its sinful ways without a care for the future. 
Now, indeed, the case of Lisbon is desperate. It is nec- 
essary to devote all our strength and purpose to the task 
of repentance. Would to God we could see as much de- 
termination and fervour for this necessary exercise as are 
devoted to the erection of huts and new buildings! Does 
being billeted in the country outside the city areas put 
us outside the jurisdiction of God? God undoubtedly de- 
sires to exercise His love and mercy, but be sure that 
wherever we are, He is watching us, scourge in hand." 
Malagrida reminded the people of their monstrous sins, 
their wicked love for theatres, music, immodest dances, 
obscene comedies, bull-fighting, and so on, and he said 
how particularly distressing it was that people who ought 
to know better did not mind being seen at these profane 
spectacles. Lisbon's vaunted piety was a fake, a dunghill 
covered with snow. Neighbouring cities, scarcely harmed, 
duly performed the most severe exercises of repentance 
with scourging and fasts, and were astonished that Lis- 
bon failed to make comparable demonstrations; but Mala- 
grida said he could forgive inadequate public and indi- 
vidual repentance if only the wretched Lisbon sinners 
would recognize an obligation to go into retreat for six 
days in a Jesuit house wherein they could be properly 

The Wrath of God (i) 139 

instructed by expert conductors in the method of making 
their peace with God. People do not know anything about 
the mechanism of true repentance, and think that loud 
lamentation and ejaculatory prayers are all that is re- 
quired. The Lisbon people, both ordinary folk and the 
leaders of society, are, frankly, irreligious. It is absolutely 
essential that all of them must learn that only in retreat, 
silent and apart, under properly qualified Jesuit instruc- 
tion, could they learn the rigjtit way in which to achieve 
the salvation of their souls. 

Mr. Marcus Cheke has rightly said that Malagrida's 
pamphlet put in its final and most painful form the ques- 
tion that post-earthquake Lisbon had somehow or other 
to answer. Who was right? Ought the ordinary man to 
try to help in the work of recovery that was directed 
by Pombal and executed by a diligent team of officials, 
aided by the army and in a large measure by the clergy 
themselves, or ought he to set all this miserable worldly 
business aside and seek in what might well be his last 
hours to save his soul? There must be no mistake about 
the seriousness or urgency of Malagrida's case. If God 
watched Lisbon, scourge in hand, what could anyone pos- 
sibly find to do more important than to placate His wrath 
by the exercise of true repentance? Time was short. The 
people might have only weeks, indeed only days, in which 
to live on this earth. Could anything be more urgent at 
this very moment than to take a last opportunity, hav- 
ing deliberately set all worldly affairs aside, of preparing 
calmly and thoughtfully for the future life? 

There is no conceivable compromise here between the 
men of action and the men of God. The parish priests 
with their loving parochial work, and the religious orders 

I4 o The Lisbon Earthquake 

with their diligent care of wounded and homeless, were 
acceptable and, indeed, indispensable collaborators with 
civil authority; but Malagrida, and those who preached 
like him, were mdennixiing the patient work of these men, 
His accusation came very nearly to the charge that the 
people were being misdirected and deprived of the proper 
opportunity of saving their souls. He made no attempt to 
seek some kind of middle course. He preached his fan- 
passioned doctrine wherever he found opportunity, in- 
sisting on the absolute necessity for meditation in retreat; 
he sent copies of his pamphlet to members of the royal 
family, and to Pombal himself and other high officers of 
state. He became in official eyes a public menace, and 
Pombal, understandably angry, persuaded the Papal Nun- 
cio to banish his troublesome countryman from Lisbon, 
which Filippo Acciaiuoli obligingly did ? sending him into 
retirement at Settibal, where he had already been resid- 
ing and was occupied with the planning of a nunnery, 
made possible by a bequest from the late Queen. 

Banishment to Settibal did not end the nuisance caused 
by Malagrida and his objectionable pamphlet. He con- 
ducted retreats for both men and women, boasted of the 
number of souls he was saving from Hell, and continued 
his stormy exhortations, wild prophesying and terrifying 
revelations, all justified in his view by persistent super- 
natural promptings. Moreover, lie was soon in very seri- 
ous trouble, the cause being the supposed attempt of 3 
September 1758 on the King's life, as letters of his writ- 
ten after the event for Brazil came into the hands o 
Pombai, and it was discovered that before the shooting 
he had prophesied that harm was likely to befall Jose L 
Probably he had nothing to do with the actual occur- 

The Wrath of God (i) 141 

rence, but Pombal had now everything he wanted for the 
final attack on this very nearly crazy saint. He was put 
into prison in December 1758, and the case against him 
was made to appear so bad that three years later in his 
obituary notice it was said of him in the Scots Magazine 
that he "had rendered himself very famous for the deep 
concern he had in the plot for assassinating his Portu- 
guese Majesty." He escaped condemnation with the Ta- 
vora family; but he was not allowed to leave the coun- 
try when the Jesuits were expelled. Instead, Malagrida 
was handed over to the Inquisition by whom he was sen- 
tenced in January 1761 as a heretic, on charges that he 
had recently written certain blasphemous and painfully 
disgusting books, full of details about the uterine life of 
St. Anne, the Virgin, and Our Lord, that he had uttered 
false prophecies and had pretended to have converse with 
spirits, and that he had behaved with gross indecency in 
prison of which charges it can be said that, if true, they 
merited no more in the way of punishment than the mer- 
ciful condemnation of a lunatic to a madhouse; but Mala- 
grida was found guilty, 6 and on the night of 21 Septem- 
ber 1761 he was put to death by strangling in horrid pub- 
licity in the torchlit end of an auto-da-fe in the Rossio 
Square that had lasted all day. As soon as he was dead 
his body was burnt and the ashes were thrown into the 
sea. He was seventy-two/ 

6 An account of the trial was published in English. Proceedings and 
Sentence of the Spiritual Court of Inquisition of Portugal against Gabriel 
Malagrida, Jesuit. London, 176^. 

7 This was not the end of the Juizo da verdadeira causa do terremoto. 
The pamphlet still circulated and troubled the conscientious reader, and 
long after the wretched author had been put to death, it was found nec- 
essary to publish a royal decree banning the work as heretical. The text 
of this decree, undated, is given in the Memoires du Marquis du Pom- 
bal, rv, p. 247 (1784). In the text, p. 37, the suggestion is that it was 

' " 

Chapter Five 


od in His anger had destroyed Lisbon. It was 
a constant theme in sermons, tracts, and moralizing po- 
etry, throughout all Europe. 

Je reconnais, helas, a ces terribles coups, 

Un maltre, un juge, un Dieu qu'anime son courroux. 

So wrote the Chevalier Joseph Cuers de CogeHn, and 
the charitable way of explaining God's terrifying punish- 
ment within the limits of a short poem was to say that 
Lisbon had been too proudmistress of the seas, a world 
market controlling vast possessions abroad, stupendously 
wealthy. Now, poetically at least, there is nothing left of 
this magnificent city. 

Ou te trouver, Heu plein de charmes, 
Cite de mes Rois, de mes Dieux? 
Est-ce le voile de mes larmes 
Qui te cache a mes tristes yeux? 

A Portuguese refugee from the ruined city is imagined 
by a Bordeaux poet as addressing thus the site where 
Lisbon had once stood. The poor wretch can only wish 
that he too had been killed: 

The Wrath of God (2) 143 

Flamme infemale et souteixeine, 

Je vis encore, rallume toi. 

Mer devorante, qui farrete? 

O Ciel! brise toi sur ma tete, 

Tombe, fond sur elle en eclats; 

Et toi, grand Dieu, vengeur du crime, 

Sauve ta demiere victime 

De Fhorreur de ne mourn* pas. 

The downfall of pride is the theme of a little fable 
in verse written by the Abbe J. L. Aubert He describes 
an ants' nest, a complacent and thriving community for 
whom everything seemed to go well, so much so that 
they accepted all the gifts of Heaven as their proper 
due and never bothered to be grateful to their Creator; 
but one day the wind shook an acorn down on the nest 
and it killed several of the ants. The rest of them, ter- 
rified by this awful event, regarded the calamity just in 
the same way as we should regard an enormous and wide- 
spread earthquake, and their pride and self-satisfaction 
vanished at once, for they knew now that their lives de- 
pended on the goodwill of God, and that henceforth they 
must be truly thankful for all the blessings they received 
and fear the just anger of God: 

Ce que les dons du Ciel n'avoient pu sur leur coeur y 
Un coup de vent en eut Thonneur. 

We men and women, the Abbe observed, are insignificant 
little creatures just like the ants, and we behave in just 
the same ungrateful way. We do not give proper thanks 
for the abundant gifts we receive from Heaven and it is 
only an unexpected disaster like an earthquake that suc- 
ceeds in humbling our wicked pride. 

144 The Lisbon Earthquake 

It may, however, have been pride in a curious form 
that brought all this suffering on the people of Lisbon; 
for one view was that they ought to have been living 
somewhere else, since they were greatly to blame for not 
heeding the plain warning given them by the awful earth- 
quake that overthrew their city on 26 January 1531. They 
should have recognized that they lived on a site under 
which lurked most potent subterranean fires that had ob- 
tained means of access to the surface, so that at any time 
they might explode again with shattering violence, just 
like an enormous sapper's mine destroying a fortification. 
But the Portuguese persuaded themselves into a false se- 
curity, and lead astray by a deep love for their charming 
flower-bedecked country, they failed to recognize what a 
dangerous place it was. In a little while unhappy Lisbon 
would doubtless be rebuilt again. But there was a strong 
probability that in due course God would destroy it once 
more with a third earthquake. 

In most of the quickly produced poems and tracts that 
have as their theme the wrath of God, the writers sel- 
dom reminded their readers that God also loved His chil- 
dren. When God's love is mentioned, it is often some- 
what grudgingly done, sometimes with a hint of reproach. 
A typical poem of the kind that does at least remember 
the sacrifice of the Son of God is one by the Abb6 de 
St. Martin de Chassonville, who had been at Madrid 
in the household of the Portuguese diplomat Mendonga 
Corte Real, and at the time of the earthquake was in 
the service of his son, Diogo de Mendoncja Corte Real, 
the foreign minister of King Jose whom Pombal was so 
soon to remove from office. Most of the poem is about 

The Wrath of God (2) 145 

God's anger and the terrible punishment recently visited 
on mankind; but it finishes with a prayer: 

Assez de ta juste colere 

Nous avons senti les effets; 

Daigne te montre notre Pere, 

DIEU vangeur, donne-nous la paix. 

Tu nous a fait a ton image, 

Reois nos voeux, et notre hommage, 

Finis notre calamite: 

Prens le Sang de ton Fils pour gage, 

II nous en a perinis Fusage 

Quand nous implorons ta bonte. 

But all this kind of simple thought about the wrath 
of God, and it can be multiplied over and over again in 
only slightly divergent forms, is small conventional stuff 
compared with the ferocious broodings of the men who 
really did believe that the Lisbon earthquake was a heav- 
enly punishment directed against special enormities of sin 
that now at last stood exposed in their true nature to an 
abashed and conscience-stricken world. A horrifying ex- 
ample of this sort of interpretation of the earthquake is 
given us by a Jansenist, Laurent-Etienne Rondet ( 1717- 
85), a Parisian who eventually made a small name for 
himself as a Biblical scholar of formidable industry and 
erudition, and also as editor of the Abb Racine's AbregS 
de THistoire ecclesiastique. When he was a young man 
he had studied under the much-respected Charles Rollin 
(1661-1741), the historian of the ancient world and a 
famous educationalist, who had suffered for his Jansenist 
views by being deprived of the rectorship of the College 
de Beauvais of Paris University while Rondet was still a 

146 The Lisbon Earthquake 

child. His thought was therefore embittered by this and 
no doubt other instances of the persecution of his co- 
religionists, and the fact that he belonged to a party 
labelled as heretics and regarded as enemies of the State. 
Of the majority of Ms party it could be said that they 
were really very ordinary French citizens, and wanted to 
be nothing else, and that they desired to be peaceable 
members of the Roman communion; but their unforgiv- 
able faults in high places were that they were bitter op- 
ponents of the Jesuits, the most dangerous enemies that 
could be found against them in the religious world, and 
also that their conscience forced them to challenge cer- 
tain aspects of the Pope's sovereignty; doctrinally they 
erred, or were told that they erred, in preferring the Gal- 
vinistic severities of St. Augustine's teaching on grace to 
the much more lenient Jesuit teaching. They were above 
everything God-fearing folk, many of them noble in 
thought and saintly in character; but there was a hard 
puritanical element in the make-up of some of them, and 
Rondet was a man in whom this was developed into a 
totally unsympathetic and unloving hatred of the ene- 
mies of his faith. Those enemies had indeed been active 
in the last years of Louis XIV. The Jansenist headquar- 
ters, the Convent of Port Royal des Champs in the coun- 
try south-west of Paris, had been savagely obliterated, its 
occupants dispersed as prisoners, and even the graveyard 
cleared of its bodies; and after this Jansenism had again 
incurred papal condemnation through the issue of the Bull 
Unigenitus x in 1713. 

1 The Bull takes the form of a condemnation in various terms of 101 
propositions in the Moral Reflexions on the New Testament by Pasquier 
Quesnel, first published in 1671. Only twelve of these are actually de- 
scribed as heretical. 

The Wrath of God (2) 147 

By the time Rondet wrote his book on the Lisbon 
earthquake it was amid a storm of troubles that were 
good reason for the bitterness in what he had to say; 
yet it is also true that his message has at the same time 
a sinister exultant note. The Bull Unigenitus had had re- 
sults far exceeding the intentions either of Pope Clement 
XI, who did not want to persecute the Jansenists, or of 
Louis XIV, who certainly did; the Bui had, in fact, 
caused a deeply felt quarrel that came near to being a 
schism between the French and Roman communions, and 
also such serious political tension that it has been held 
to be in some measure responsible for the French Revo- 
lution. To the Jansenists the doctrines implied by the con- 
demnations of the Bull were denied in the Bible and in 
the teaching of St. Augustine; but it was generally rec- 
ognized at once that, whether this were so or not, the 
condemnations in Unigenitus far exceeded a reasonable 
denunciation of the central Jansenist faith, and many 
Frenchmen without any Jansenist sympathies hated the 
Bull as intolerable interference with their own religious 
practice and belief. Led by some of the bishops and large 
numbers of clergy, there was a strong Gallican protest 
against the attempt of the Pope to force by such means 
as this doctrinal instruction on the French Church, and 
there was talk of an appeal to a General Council of the 
Church; Unigenitus was, in short, denounced with con- 
siderable popular support as ultramontanism of the most 
flagrant kind, and it led to so sharp a quarrel with the 
Vatican that the principal protesting bishops were excom- 
municated. But the Bull had also very powerful friends 
in high places in addition to the assiduous support of the 
Jesuits, and in 1730 it became the law of France. This 

148 The Lisbon Earthquake 

was followed by public scandals, above all by passion- 
ate protests against official interference with the common 
right to the sacraments, especially extreme unction; at the 
same time the Jansenists were becoming a worse nuisance, 
for the miracles of the St. Medard graveyard in the Quar- 
tier Latin were followed by the hysterical performances 
of the convulsionaries, whose fantastic behaviour and 
apocalyptic denunciation of Unigenitus as the apostasy 
heralding Antichrist made it necessary to close the cem- 
etery in 1732. Depar le Roi, Defense a Dieu, De faire 
Miracle, En ce Lieu. 

On the whole the Jansenists got unexpected sympathy. 
By the time of the earthquake there had been riots in 
Paris, as a result of what seemed to be a cruel and quite 
unnecessary heresy-hunt, while the King was openly quar- 
relling with the magistrates and the Paris Parliament 
about the enforcement of the Bull as law. Jansenism had 
now acquired a political virtue, as though its main tenet 
were the liberty of the subject, and in these circumstances 
a fanatical Jansenist like Rondet saw the hand of God 
crushing the enemies of his faith. The Lisbon earthquake, 
he believed, was the final and unmistakable denunciation 
of these enemies before all Christendom, that is, if men 
would only read the signs of Heaven aright, signs that 
Rondet now felt it was his duty to explain to all who 
would read his book. 2 

2 The book, over seven hundred pages in length, is in two parts, R- 
flexions sur le Desastre de Ltebonne. En Europe. Aux d^pens de la Com- 
pagnie, 1756, pp. xi, 543, and SuppUment aux Reflexions sur le D6sastre 
de Lisbonne, 1757, pp. Ixii, 216, with preface dated 18 April 1757. "Ati 
depens de la Compagnie" probably means that the publication was paid 
for out of a Jansenist secret fund (the Botte a Perette) that had been 
founded in the seventeenth century in order to maintain the fight against 
the Jesuits by publications and to provide support for their Jansenist 

The Wrath of God (2) 149 

Rondet knew that when God strikes, He strikes hard. 
Therefore it is useless to waste time on any unrealistic 
lamentation or squeamish pity for the supposedly inno- 
cent sufferers in a divine punishment of this kind. Nec- 
essarily, the just are struck down in company with the 
unjust. What, after all, does it matter? Everybody has 
got to die sooner or later, and we are al of us sinners, 
even little children. There is no need to worry about the 
death of comparatively virtuous people. The really terri- 
ble thing is that sudden death means the eternal damna- 
tion of the hardened sinner. This awful thought should 
make us understand and abjectly dread the colossal pun- 
ishment that God inflicts upon mankind in a disaster of 
this magnitude. 

Monsieur Rondet made two points that gave him a spe- 
cial advantage in studying divine retribution. The first is 
that God's punishment may be inflicted a long time, per- 
haps several hundred years, after the sinning that angered 
God took place, and the second is that this punishment, 
whenever it may be inflicted, is not necessarily inflicted 
upon the actual place where the offence was committed. 
God is patient. He told Abraham that the Amarites would 
wait for four hundred years before the Israelites inflicted 
on this wicked tribe the punishment intended for them. 
Again, the evil done by Manasseh, King of Judah, was 
remembered and punished in the reigns of his great- 
grandson and great-great-grandson, without any allevia- 

victims. The phrase is often used on Jansenist title-pages with the false 
imprints of Cologne or Utrecht. Hondet's edition of the Abbe Racine's 
Abrg& de I'Histoire ecclesiastique is an example. The Reflexions sur le 
D6sastre de Lisbonne is probably a Paris book, and from the same press 
as the 1748 and 1752 editions of the Abrgge. I have to thank my col- 
league Mr. A. F. Allison for giving me this information. 

150 The Lisbon Earthquake 

tion on account of Manasseh's reported repentance or of 
the religious reformation carried out by Ms grandson 
Josiah; for the faE of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and the sub- 
sequent captivity were both the consequences of the 
wickedness of Manasseh, who died about 641 B.C. And 
we learn from this particular example that God does not 
always punish in one decisive blow the people who have 
angered Him; il les frappe par degres, said Rondet; thus 
Nebuchadnezzar had to attack Jerusalem three times be- 
fore he succeeded in destroying the city and burning the 
Temple. There are many other examples of this kind of 
delayed and protracted punishment. The destruction of 
Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the Hadrianic banishment of the 
Jews were punishments for the Crucifixion. The schis- 
matic Greeks were punished in the fifteenth century for 
sins dating back to the ninth century. Then, as regards 
place: note that the penal earthquakes following the Cru- 
cifixion took place in Asia Minor and not in Judaea; sim- 
ilarly, earthquakes of about A.D. 468 in the Dauphine and 
particularly in the city of Vienne were warnings of dis- 
asters about to fall on Rome in the period from the re- 
volt of Ricimer to the end of the Western Empire in A.B. 
476. En frappant Vienne, Dieu menagoit Rome. 

With all this in mind, Rondet turns to the case of Lis- 
bon. It was a busy port, a centre of commerce known 
everywhere in Europe, with a large population of for- 
eigners of many nationalities; so, firstly, it is obvious that 
when God destroyed it by an earthquake he was address- 
ing Himself to the whole of Europe. Next, Lisbon was 
the capital of Portugal, and Portugal, like Spain, is a 
country infamous for the severity of its Inquisition. Only 
a brief acquaintance with the history of this organization 

The Wrath of God (2) 151 

is needed in order to convince us that in punishing by 
earthquake both Lisbon and Seville, God was deliberately 
blasting two notorious cradles of this unholy institution. 

Rondet has also another dreadful observation to make 
about cradles of sin; for Portugal is a cradle of the Jes- 
uits. There was a great earthquake in Lisbon in 1531, 
as he had already said, in the reign of King Joao III, 
and shortly afterwards, heedless of the divine warning, 
the misguided King invited the Society of Jesus to Por- 
tugal; he allowed them to establish themselves at Coim- 
bra, Evora, and Lisbon, and it was he who first sent 
Jesuit missionaries to Africa and Brazil. Deservedly, he 
died of apoplexy in 1557; his children all died at early 
ages, and the folly of his grandson Sebastian lost the 
kingdom of Portugal to Spain. The Lisbon earthquake 
was therefore a blow specially directed against the Jes- 
uits; the city was the first place in which they were re- 
ceived with enthusiastic royal favour, and so it was God's 
principal target when His punishment fell upon Europe. 
Triumphantly, but inaccurately, Rondet pointed out that 
all the seven houses of the Jesuits in that city had been 
destroyed, and he noted a report in the papers that the 
original Jesuit College at Coimbra had also been dam- 

The case against Lisbon was not, however, yet com- 
plete; it was also the cradle of Molinism, for the Span- 
ish Jesuit, Luis de Molina, published in Lisbon in 1588 
his Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, etc., a 
celebrated reconciliation of free will and predestination 
through grace that occasioned a major theological con- 
troversy and was a principal object of Jansenist hate. 
Finally, added to this pile of Lisbon wrongdoing, was 

152 The Lisbon Earthquake 

the scandal of the Laxist Casuists, whose deplorable, In- 
dulgent moral code was the product, according to Ron- 
det, of Portugal when united with Spain as one kingdom. 
The Jesuit Francisco Sudrez, a most celebrated Spanish 
scholar, was involved in this perversion of moral theol- 
ogy, and it could be said against him that he was a pro- 
fessor at Coimbra for nineteen years and that he died 
in Lisbon (1617). There was no room left for doubt. A 
Jansenist of Rondet's sort knew that Lisbon was doctrin- 
ally damned. 

The whole matter is made worse by the timing and 
manner of the earthquake, for there are ways in which 
God adds special emphasis to His awful message. By de- 
stroying Lisbon at a popular time for Mass on a solemn 
festival, God condemned the general disgracefully irrev- 
erent attitude to His services and holy days, and in choos- 
ing All Saints' Day, God made known that it was the 
saints themselves who had begged Him to punish Lisbon; 
because of its wickedness they had cried to Him, "How 
long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and 
avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" 8 
Then, again, the disaster took place at Terce, the hour 
when the Church daily remembers the descent of the Holy 
Ghost at Pentecost, the great gift of grace which Molina 
and the Jesuits so shockingly misunderstood, which even 
popes had shamefully insulted in outrageous briefs and 

A Jansenist's deepest feelings are now roused. Is it pos- 
sible that there is a connexion between the Lisbon earth- 
quake and the infamous destruction of the beloved Con- 

8 Revelation vi. 10. 

The Wrath of God (2) 153 

vent of Port Royal des Champs on 29 October 1709? The 
vile act began with the forcible removal of the nuns be- 
tween Terce and Sext on that day, and it was reported 
to the prefect of police as completed on All Saints' Day; 
everyone knew the subsequent fate of the buildings and 
the graveyard. The dust of this holy house, said Rondet, 
demands vengeance, and now already we see that God is 
striking a city that first fostered Port Royal's most bitter 
enemy , the Jesuits. We are to note here that the Lisbon 
earthquake happened precisely 150 years after the shame- 
ful refusal of Pope Paul V to issue a Bull denouncing 
Molina, the cowardly act that was the source of all the 
subsequent troubles in the Church. 

Molinisme! This scandalous doctrine must be the plague 
of locusts of Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation that 
had power to hurt men for "five months/* an expression 
that may mean 150 years, since the Biblical "day" often 
means a year, and 5 X 30 = 150. St. John goes on to say 
that "one woe is past; and behold, there come two woes 
more hereafter/' and with this clue, being sure enough 
that Molinism must be the first woe, the full meaning 
of the vision of the seven angels can be explained in 
terms of familiar Church history. The Lisbon earthquake 
is the trumpet of the sixth angel announcing the sixth 
plague, which is the second woe that is soon to fall upon 
us. It is also highly probable that Molinists are prophet- 
ically denounced in the four plagues of Joel (i. 4) for the 
palmerworm, the locusts, the cankerworm, and the cat- 
erpillar, refer (among other things) to the four major 
appearances of false teaching in the Western Church, 
namely the Albigensian heresy, the influence of Wycliffe 
and Hus, the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and the Mo- 

154 The Lisbon Earthquake 

linists, obviously the caterpillars. Now, of these, the first 
three have been decisively punished, so it is alarmingly 
probable that the Lisbon earthquake is the warning of a 
terrible fourth punishment that will soon astound the 
world. Whatever form it may take, it will be something 
very terrible, comparable perhaps with the punishment 
the Greek Church received for its act of schism, that is, 
conquest by Islam. Joel said, "Alas for the day! for the 
day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the 
Almighty shall it come." 4 

This summary has not yet taken us a quarter way 
through all that Rondet has to say. The whole of the 
events connected with the earthquake had also to be 
discussed in relation to Biblical prophecy. The shocks 
felt in Africa show that God is also threatening Islam; 
hitherto He used the Mohammedans as a rod whereby 
to scourge the Christians; but, as Jeremiah foretold, the 
rod itself shall be broken. 5 We are told why earthquakes 
have lately alarmed both North and South America, and 
also Kaschan in Persia, Constantinople and Cairo; but 
here let us leave Monsieur Rondet and his loveless un- 
sympathetic book. He had no sorrow for the sufferers; it 
was in his eyes right that men, women, and children 
should die miserably, crushed by blow after blow falling 
everywhere on the earth from the scourge of an angry 
God. Blow after blow dealt regularly throughout all his- 
tory whenever men have erred. Rondet knew that men 
must cringe without protest under the painful flogging 
they had so richly deserved. Would that eighteenth-cen- 
tury sinners had something of the wisdom and piety of 

4 Joel i. 15. 

5 Cf. Jeremiah xxv. 9-12. 

The Wrath of God (2) 155 

their forefathers; they did at least pay attention to the 
dreadful signs of divine wrath; they winced under God's 
chastisement dreading an even worse punishment, which 
was, it is unhappily true, usually their fate. How dif- 
ferent it all is now! How little the Lisbon earthquake 
really means to us! 

We cannot say that the Chevalier de Oliveka was un- 
loving and had no sorrow for the sufferers in the earth- 
quake. He was a Portuguese living in exile in London, 
and his grief on hearing of the disaster that had befallen 
his dear country, where his family lived and he still had 
many friends, was obviously sincere. "With how many 
tears have I not bedewed the Paper, on which I write 
the Name of my August afflicted Sovereign, and those of 
my near Relations, my ancient Friends, and, in one word, 
of all the Portuguese?" 6 In England he could only worry 
and lament, bitterly regretful that he could not offer to 
take part in the rescue work on the site; he knew that as 
long as he lived he would grieve over the present afflic- 
tion of Portugal and the terrible fate of the lovely city 
of Lisbon. Qui ria pas vu Lisbonne, na rien uu de bon, 
it used to be said. Now there was no Lisbon. 

It was in Lisbon that Francisco Xavier de Oliveira 
(1702-83) was born, the son of a highly placed Treasury 
official who spent much of his time abroad in the dip- 
lomatic service. The son also received an Exchequer post, 
and for many years afterwards he led a gay and pros- 
perous life in Lisbon, receiving from the King in 1729 
the honour of an appointment as a Chevalier of the Or- 

6 A Pathetic Discourse, p. 5. Second edition. London, 1756. This is a 
piratical English translation of the Chevalier's Discours PathStique. 

156 The Lisbon Earthquake 

der of Christ. He was a quarrelsome and profligate young 
man, possibly under some slight suspicion of being un- 
orthodox in his religious views; but he married happily in 
1730, and though he lost his wife three years later, he 
seemed to have a fine career before him when he was 
sent to Vienna in 1734 to replace his father, who had just 
died, as Secretary of the Portuguese Embassy. His stay in 
Austria, however, was most unhappy, for he was slighted 
by his chief, the Conde de Tarouca, who died suddenly 
at a most unfortunate moment in their relations, and in 
addition to a charge of treacherous conduct, he also in- 
curred ruinous expenditure for which he considered he 
should have been officially reimbursed. 7 Six years later he 
moved to Holland, and though he claimed to have some 
State business there, he was now chiefly concerned with 
the presentation to his own government of his case for 
redress. He stayed in Holland until 1744, and it was in 
this Protestant country that he became convinced that he 
would be spiritually happier as a member of a reformed 
church than in the Roman Church in which he had been 
brought up. So drastically did he revolt from his former 
allegiance that he convinced himself that the Roman com- 
munion was in error and blinded by superstition and idol- 
atry. For family reasons, and because he was still trying 
to recover his good name after the trouble in Vienna, he 
kept his conversion to himself for a while; but the amus- 
ing and informative books he wrote and published at this 

7 For a brief and most unfavourable account of the Chevalier de Oli- 
veira, see Alfredo Duarte Rodrigues, O MarquSs de Pombal e os sens 
bidgrafos, pp. 337~3& Lisbon, 1947. This account refers Indignantly to 
a proposal made in 1923 that one of the streets running north to south 
between the Rua Morais Soares and the Rua Marque's da Silva should 
be named after the Chevalier as one of Lisbon's distinguished literary 

The Wrath of God (2) 157 

time were indiscreetly outspoken on the subject of the 
Conde de Tarouca and his family, and also on religious 
matters, as one may see by reading the chapter on the 
Inquisition in the first volume of his Memoires . . . con- 
cernant le Portugal, and he now received a direct rebuff 
from his native land because the Inquisition, probably 
more for political reasons than on account of their heret- 
ical content, refused to allow these works to be put on 
sale in Portugal; this caused him serious financial loss as 
he had had the greatest difficulty in getting them printed. 
The Chevalier de Oliveira next moved to London, still 
busy with his protest against the wrong done to him in 
Vienna, and here he met Senhor de Carvalho, the future 
Marques de Pombal and at that time Minister Plenipo- 
tentiary in England, who received him kindly, though he 
now naturally refused to become involved in the tiresome 
suit of his visitor; here, too, in 1746 he finally renounced 
Rome and entered the Anglican Church under the guid- 
ance of Majendie of the Savoy Chapel, an act which, 
when it became known in Portugal, naturally lost him the 
little remaining sympathy of his scandalized family. How- 
ever, in spite of serious financial troubles and eighteen 
months* imprisonment for debt, he married for a third 
time (a second wife had died in Vienna), and did a little 
writing, producing in 1751 the Amusement Periodique in 
instalments, 8 an exceedingly rare book in the diverting 
gossipy style of his Cartas Familiares, published in Hol- 
land in 1742. The Chevalier was a witty and amusing 

8 The full title is Oeuvres M&Ues: ou Discours Historiques, Politiques, 
Moraux, Litteraires et Critiques publics . . . sous le titre d f Amusement 
Periodique. It appeared in three volumes, January-April, May-August, 
September-December. A Portuguese translation (Recreagao Periodic^) 
by Aquilino Ribeiro was published in Lisbon in 1922. 

158 The Lisbon Earthquake 

man, obviously a notable and most lovable chatterbox, 
and these three volumes and the other works containing 
his table-talk are extremely entertaining; but the Amuse- 
ment Periodique attracted little attention in England, and 
in Portugal it merely succeeded in angering the Inquisi- 
tion further, as is understandable enough after even a 
short perusal of its contents. In 1753 this unfortunate man, 
still burdened by debts and bad health, and handicapped 
by the fact that he knew no English, was able to rent 
a tiny house in the country outside London at Kentish 
Town, and he was living there when the news of the Lis- 
bon earthquake arrived. 

He was dismayed and unhappy, for he loved Portugal; 
but he knew that he had now something very important 
to say to the Portuguese, so he wrote his Discours Pa- 
thetique au Sujet des Calamites presentes arrivees en Por- 
tugal, which was published in 1756 (price is.). This slim 
quarto volume of fifty-two pages sold so well that sev- 
eral reprintings were necessary, and an English transla- 
tion also appeared, though the author said it was with- 
out his consent. Three copies of the French edition were 
sent to Portugal with letters from Oliveira, one to Dom 
Manuel, the King's uncle, one to Pombal, and one to the 
Royal Academy of History, and another copy was sent to 
Dona Maria Barbara, the Queen of Spain, King Jose's 
sister. The copies addressed to Lisbon arrived late in June, 
and by early July the Inquisition had decided to forbid 
the reading of the book. On 8 October an official procla- 
mation was issued by the Holy Office in Lisbon for gen- 
eral distribution through Portugal condemning the Dis- 
cours faihetique in company with Ange Goudar's Rela- 
tion Historique (see p. 86) and two books containing 

The Wrath of God (2) 159 

some prayers listed as forbidden on the Index, one of 
which was a 1753 Coimbra edition of a work by Fleury; 
under pain of excommunication, these works were not to 
be read and those possessing them were to hand the 
copies over to the ecclesiastical authority. It is quite plain, 
however, that the principal abomination denounced in 
this wrathful document is the "scandalous attack on our 
Most Holy Faith*" contained in the pamphlet on the earth- 
quake written in London by the Chevalier de Oliveira. 9 
There is nothing surprising about that. The Discours 
Pathetique is a fiercely worded direct attack on the In- 
quisition and the Roman Church in Portugal, and it is 
addressed to the King himself, for the Chevalier (Sir 
Francis Oliveira, as his English friends sometimes referred 
to him) considered himself entitled by reason of his mem- 
bership of his order and his former court connexions to 
appeal direct to the sovereign. He said first of all that 
the cause of the earthquake was the anger of God, and 
his general reflections on this specially notable example 
of divine punishment are those that were expressed over 
and over again in the sermons and pious tracts of the 
time; but these simple considerations are no more than 
a brief introduction to his real message. He could not 
bring himself to believe that the Portuguese were really 
aware of the calamitous significance of what has hap- 
pened, for surely they must see that God has angrily 
discontinued His former loving protection of this country. 

The edital was read publicly on Sunday, 17 October 1756 and on 
this occasion there was a fine display of earthquake-nerves at Sao Rogue. 
After the reading and on the appearance of the Host from the ruined 
Church of the Encarnagao, which was kept in Sao Rogue, a woman had 
screaming hysterics, and this made people immediately think that an 
earthquake was taking place, or about to take place; so there was a 
stampede to get out of the church in which many people got injured. 

160 The Lisbon Earthquake 

The earthquake shows that God's grace is withdrawn. He 
has turned His back on the wailing petitions of the vic- 
tims, because God never answers those who invoke His 
aid in a manner He detests. God will have nothing to 
do with superstition and idolatry. The Chevalier said one 
could certainly be thankful that the life of King Jose had 
been saved, but, having saved the King, God must now 
be asked to preserve the King's feet from stumbling. 

Hear and assist him by thy Bounty! [the exile 
prayed]; add to the Days, thou hast allotted him a 
longer period; that he may have time to recollect his 
Error, and be convinced of his ill conduct; to rectify 
the pernicious Principles of his People, and to put an 
end to the Transgressions of thy holy Law; by which 
he and his Subjects have drawn upon them the Chas- 
tisements with which thou hast visited them in thine 
Anger. Yes, sm, in spite of your own heart, you are in 
a gross Error. 

The Chevalier's case against his country is simple. First 
of all he denounced the idolatrous adoration of images, 
in his view "diabolical, infernal, and ridiculous, in all its 
parts." There were no greater idolaters anywhere than the 
Portuguese. The saints in Heaven did not expect to be 
infuriated by incense and prayers offered to their images; 
they required no more than that the living should join 
them in offering to God the praise and worship due to 
Him alone. His second charge is that the reading of the 
Bible is prohibited. If a legislature wanted the State they 
were governing to be properly and intelligently ordered, 
would they prohibit the reading of the Statutes of the 
Realm? Thirdly, and most violently, he attacked that "odi- 

The Wrath of God (2) 161 

ous Tribunal/' the Inquisition, who were deliberately re- 
sponsible for the gross ignorance of the Portuguese in re- 
ligious matters. Fourthly, the Chevalier considered the 
treatment of the Jews in Portugal to be brutal and ex- 
tremely foolish. It could be easily shown that the Jews 
had made valuable contributions to the welfare of the 
country. To persecute them was politically and financially 
absurd. "Great King! is this the method to promote com- 
merce, or to make arts and sciences flourish?'* 

The Chevalier de Oliveira at this point plunged bravely 
and foolishly into his final magnificent appeal. The King 
must reform Portugal. There was no other hope for his 
unhappy country. King Jose must put an end to the mis- 
chief caused by the Inquisition. He must rid himself of 
its influence, and in order to decide how best to carry- 
out the reformation necessary if Portugal were to be saved, 
the King would now be well advised to invite learned 
theologians of other nations, especially of France and 
Germany, to confer with him. "Then, SIR, being well in- 
structed by yourself, of the pro and con, in this impor- 
tant Controversey; you could easily recline the Balance 
on the Side of Truth and Reason/' 

One might well imagine that this pamphlet was really 
written for a Protestant public, a timely tract that would 
enhance the Chevalier's reputation in the country of his 
adoption and prove the sincerity of so valuable a con- 
vert. Yet, it was nothing of the sort. As Professor Gon- 
galves Rodrigues has said, 10 there is a wild streak of van- 
ity in Oliveira's writings suggesting that he really did 
think his voice would be heard with respect in his na- 

10 Cavaleiro de Oliveira. Opusculos contra o Santo-Oficio, p. vi. Coim- 
bra, 1942. 

162 The Lisbon Earthquake 

live land, a land that was almost unapproachable and in 
practice unpersuadable with regard to the intimate reli- 
gious matters this despised apostate in exile wished to be 
changed. His fantastic determination to make Portugal 
listen to him is proved by his next publication, the Suite 
du Discours Pathetique ou Reponse aux Objections et awe 
Mnrmures que cet Ecrit s*est attire a Lisbonne, which he 
wrote in the spring of 1757 and published in that year. 
He had received through the many friends he still had 
in Lisbon a summary of, or copies of, the "odious re- 
proaches" made against him, and these he thought it right 
to confute with the vigorous expostulation that is charac- 
teristic of his polemical style; he then added a criticism, 
absurd in its exaggeration and niggling anti-Popish stu- 
pidity of the quite sensible account of the Lisbon earth- 
quake by Antonio Pereira (see p. 91). 

To show his mood the Chevalier printed a letter dated 
2,2, December 1756 from his clerical brother in Lisbon, 
Toms de Aquino, a sadly shocked Benedictine monk of 
high official position in his order, whose first hope was 
that Oliveira would disown the Discours Pathetique, or, 
if he could not do that, admit his grievous sin in having 
written it and return as a penitent to the Roman Church. 
The letter concluded by announcing that their mother 
had died on 24 April, perhaps Father Tonias sadly sup- 
posed, to escape the blow caused by her son's cruel hu- 
miliation of the family. To this appeal the Chevalier, 
though he signed himself le frere le plus tendre et le 
plus affectione, sent back a cold uncompromising answer 
in a letter of 12 April 1757; he was a Protestant, he said; 
nothing could alter his views. He referred to the death 
of his mother, of which he had already been told, and 

The Wrath of God (2) 163 

to the alleged humiliation of Ms family that was supposed 
to have hastened her end. This blow to your pride, this 
humiliation, said the Chevalier, is not my work, but the 
work of God; if my relations in Portugal have suffered 
as a result of the views expressed in niy Discours Pathe- 
tique, they have suffered deservedly, and no one can help 
them but God. 

The Inquisition had not, however, finished with this 
rebel. On Sunday, 20 December 1761, the Chevalier de 
Oliveira was burnt in effigy, with his heretical book added 
to the bonfire, at the horrible auto-da-fe in Lisbon in 
which Malagrida was executed (see p. 141). The insult 
was more than he could silently endure, and he felt all 
the bitterness such public humiliation in his native coun- 
try might be expected to cause. As a result he wrote a 
small book that is partly autobiography and partly a 
strongly worded defence of his conversion and religious 
convictions, Le Chevalier d'Oliveyra brule en Effigie: 
Comment et Pourquoi? now a rare work of which there 
is a copy in Lambeth Palace Library, lately republished 
by Professor Gongalves Rodrigues. 11 This pamphlet is also 
a hard and sometimes unreasonable book, of little value 
as a critical essay in doctrinal controversy; but it is sin- 
cere, and because of its earnest pleading it is an impres- 
sive statement of a Protestant convert's unchangeable and 
unappeasable hatred of the communion he had deserted. 
Toutes les Religions qui employent le fer et la feu pour 

11 Opuscules, pp. 53 ff. The original is a small volume, 6% X 3% in., 
of 124 pages. Printed by J. Haberhorn, Grafton Street, St. Ann's, Soho. 
Professor Gongalves Rodrigues has had to reprint the text in 4, and 
he has added two appropriate contemporary English engravings of an 
auto-da-f^ and the Tavora execution, and a French engraving of Mala- 
grida. A copy of the pamphlet has been recently acquired by the British 

164 The Lisbon Earthquake 

contraindre les hommes a en embrasser les Dogmes, sont 
certainement fausses, That is the heartfelt beginning to 
the justification of his views. 

The news of the ridiculous fate of the Chevalier de 
Oliveira in this auto-da-fe at Lisbon did not pass unno- 
ticed outside Portugal, for it lightened with a momentary 
gleam of humour the horror of the announcement of the 
brutal execution of Malagrida. From a Geneva press ap- 
peared a tiny pamphlet called Epitre du Chevalier d'Qli- 
veyra sur le dernier Acte du Foi whose author called him- 
self Mr. de ***, and in this very witty Voltairean jeu 
d 'esprit, after a devastating little preface comes a short 

" * O vous de la triste figure 

Preux Chevalier d'Oliveyra, 
A Lisbonne votre peinture 
Vient d'expier par la brulure, 
Le grand scandale que causa 
La peu catholique brochure 
Que votre plume composa. 

The miserable victim Malagrida is then represented as 
crying out to the Inquisitors that they should think of 
the taunts and reproaches the founder of his Company, 
St. Ignatius Loyola, would hurl at St, Dominic, the orig- 
inator of the Inquisition, when his soul arrived in Pur- 
gatory. At the end of the tirade the Jesuit saint asks if 
it were really necessary that Malagrida should be dis- 
patched to his future life in the company of the effigy 
of a vile renegade who was laughing at them all, Jesuits 

The Chevalier de Oliveira died in 1783 and was buried 
in the graveyard of St. Augustine's, Hackney, close to the 

The Wrath of God (2) 165 

present parish church, St. John's. He had tried to inter- 
vene again in Portuguese affairs in 1767, before his move 
to Hackney, by publishing a tiny book in Portuguese un- 
der the pseudonym of Felix Vieyra Corvina de Arcos, an 
anagram of his own name, the purpose of which was to 
praise the Tentatwa Theologica of Antonio Pereira de 
Figueiredo, whose account of the Lisbon earthquake he 
had so scornfully attacked in 1757; for the learned Por- 
tuguese theologian's opinions now thrilled the exiled 
Chevalier with hope, because this challenge to Rome 
and ultramontanism, coupled with the certain news of 
PombaFs anti- Vatican and anti-clerical policy, made him 
think that the religious heart of Portugal might after all 
be changing. 12 The Chevalier also wrote, a year later, an 
apocalyptic study of the reign of Antichrist in which his 
hatred of the Roman Church found its silliest and most 
bitter expression. He had written in his lighter manner on 
this subject in the Amusement Periodique; 1S but by this 
time he was getting old, and it is easy to think of him 
as a lonely disappointed man, hard-set and humourless in 
his views like Rondet, another authority on Antichrist. It 
is not fair, however, to dismiss the Chevalier too hastily. 
He was a failure, and his works and views attracted a 
very little attention in England; but he was in his prime 

12 The suggestion that this book was actually commissioned by Pom- 
bal is disproved by its contents, c. p. 7 of these Reflexions. London, 

13 Tom. Ill, pp. 362 ff., Londres, 1751. The Chevalier tells us he com- 
monly referred to the Bishop of Rome as Antichrist, and considered he 
had far better reason for doing so than the Bishop of Rome had for 
styling himself Pope or Universal Father; but the Pope himself is not 
Antichrist, even though almost everybody knows he is as much anti- 
Christian as Antichrist can possibly be; the Pope is only a sort of ad- 
vance agent for the real Antichrist. 

166 The Lisbon Earthquake 

a most entertaining person, full of anecdotes and chatter, 
and with a crowd of scientific interests that he maintained 
throughout his life. He finished his days with only a small 
circle of friends, mostly members of foreign families set- 
tled in London; but they seem to have been a faithful 
band., and one of them, Matthew Maty, the second prin- 
cipal librarian of the British Museum, whose father was 
a Huguenot from Provence, is known to have been greatly 
attached to him. His obituary notice in the Gentleman s 
Magazine is that of an interesting and respected Lon- 

When Monsieur Rondet and the Chevalier de Oliveira 
succeeded in identifying the objects of their fiercest the- 
ological hatred among the grim portents of the Book of 
Revelation, they were delivering final attacks on the foe 
in the typical manner of their extravagant writings on the 
sins that had provoked God into destroying Lisbon. From 
such oversincere single-purposed Christians we cannot ex- 
pect a thoughtful answer to the question why God had 
permitted this dreadful disaster to take place, nor indeed 
from any of the vituperative sermons preached in the 
churches. In contrast, therefore, let us turn thankfully to 
one of the men who spoke with a different and wiser 
voice. He is Pastor Elie Bertrand (1717-97) of the French 
Church in Berne. His message was bound to command 
attention, because he was a naturalist of some fame, and 
though still in the late thirties when the Lisbon earth- 
quake took place, he was already a member of the Royal 
Academies of Berlin and Gottingen; moreover, earth- 
quakes were one of his subjects, and in 1752 he had pub- 
lished a paper on the interior structure of earth. 

The Wrath of God (2) 167 

BertrancTs teaching on the subject of the Lisbon earth- 
quake is simple. It must, he said, be regarded as God's 
work, and though it is no doubt part of His physical gov- 
ernment of the earth, on which subject there is a good 
deal to be said scientifically, the overriding consideration 
now must be that it is also part of God's moral gov- 
ernment of the world. Here we must stand completely 
abashed by our ignorance of God's mind and purpose, and 
any suggestion by us that we know why He destroyed 
Lisbon is merely wicked presumption. Nevertheless, our 
minds are full of this disaster, and it is right that we 
should carefully discuss its theological significance; hut 
we must do this with theological completeness. We must, 
for instance, view the Lisbon earthquake in the light of 
the principal attributes of God. Thus a first certainty is 
that we must fear God, for God is Holy. A wise man is 
afraid of his moral judgements, and while we are on this 
earth we must stand in awe of Him. "And unto man he 
said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and 
to depart from evil is understanding." 14 Secondly, we 
must grope our way through our present alarm and grief 
to a contemplation of God as immutable. Civilizations 
come and go; mankind may be destroyed; even our earth 
may be superseded by a new earth made for new in- 
habitants. But God is eternal and He is unchanging, and 
it is in His everlasting unchangeable care that man will 
find an ultimate restful home. Thirdly, let us be led to 
the thought that God is loving. There is proof of His 
bounty all around us in His created world; how quickly 
we forget in our present mood of distress the overwhelm- 

14 Job xxviii 28. 

i68 The Lisbon Earthquake 

ing outpouring of benefits that He has bestowed upon us! 

The pastor preached a course of four "earthquake" ser- 
mons in Berne, the first on 30 November 1755 expressly 
related to the Lisbon disaster, the second on 14 Decem- 
ber on occasion of a shock that had been felt in Switzer- 
land, the third on 28 December, and the fourth on the 
General Fast-Day observed in Switzerland on Thursday, 
19 February 1756. 15 He came boldly and immediately to 
the point with his text, "And many nations shall pass by 
this city, and they shall say every man to his neigh- 
bour, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great 
city?" 16 To find an answer to this question, he said, we 
need first of all faith, charity, humility, and penitence. 
Faith because we must trust in Providence. God caused 
this earthquake, and however shocked we are, we must 
still have a complete faith in God, Charity, because we 
have become hard-hearted and frivolous; now we must 
pray that our hearts be flooded with a warm love for all 
our fellow-men, especially those who have suffered in the 
earthquake, regardless of any considerations of race, lan- 
guage, form of religion, or politics. Humility, because we 
must stop thinking that God is favouring us, and that we 
are a more virtuous people than those He has afflicted. 
Penitence, because we must all now think of death and 
the Last Judgement, and so consider how our lives should 
be immediately amended. 

"Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great 
city?" There is only one answer that man dare make, and 
that is that God has by this act imposed a duty on all 

15 They are published in BertrancTs M^moire sur les tremblemens de 
Terre. Vevey, 1756. 

16 Jeremiah xxii. 8. 

The Wrath of God (2) 169 

of us, the duty of becoming better Christians. Every line 
of thought about the earthquake leads to some deficiency 
in our conduct towards God, and so let us accept it as 
a signal to all of us to try to draw nearer to God, who 
is Holy, Immutable, and Loving. 

Chapter Six 


V^/ne generation passeth away, and another gen- 
eration cometh: but the earth abideth for ever," said the 
Preacher. And now after i November 1755 man could 
trust in nothing, not even in the solid earth. **O Earth," 
wrote the poet, "you mighty rock-like unassailable thing, 
is it really credible that one so strong and massive should 
be found to move in terrifying shudders? How can 
wretched man find security anywhere if the strong earth 
itself no longer offers security? Why do you tremble?" 
Alas, the poet knew the answer only too well. Earth and 
mankind stand in a divine relationship, for man is clay 
made animate. The earth from which man was made was 
inanimate and insensitive; but now man, the living sensi- 
tive creature, is sunk in sinful sleep, unconscious of his 
guilt, and it is the stolid earth, ashamed of man's lethargy, 
which comes to life to rouse the sleepers on its surface, 
to shake and terrify them, so that they may repent while 
it is time and save themselves. In frantic paroxysms, the 
earth cracks open; it cannot support further the rebellious 
obduracy of man, and through its opened mouths it an- 
nounces with brutal emphasis that man's sins have an- 
gered God. 


The Injustice of God 171 

The sonnet POT castigar, Senhor, nossos insultos by Do- 
mingos dos Rels Quita and the Parenesis (Ilagaiveaig = 
exhortation) ao Terremoto of Francisco de Pina e Mello 
( 1695-1773) are the best known of the contemporary Por- 
tuguese earthquake-poems. The sonnet * says what we al- 
ready know that God flung down His own temples and 
reduced them to ashes rather than see them profaned by 
the scandalous sinners of Lisbon. The Parenesis is a longer 
poem with much more to say. 

Pina e Mello 2 was born at Montemor-o-Velho, between 
Coimbra and the coast, and he was living there at the 
time of the earthquake, a man who had already become 
in a minor and retired way a literary figure commanding 
respect. He had published a stout little volume of agree- 
able juvenilia in 1752, and in the earthquake year he 
printed his Bucolica, a set of eclogues and sonnets in 
what he called a rustic style, and he also wrote a long 
poem, Triumpho da Religido, that was published in 1756. 
It is this work that best illustrates his knowledge and 
powers of thought, for it has a long prologue on the na- 
ture of poetry that would be a credit to the scholarship 
of any land, and the Triumpho itself, a defence of his 
own orthodox Christianity against atheism, polytheism, 
deism, free-thinking, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and Lu- 
therism, is a fine essay in combative argument that could 
only have been written by a scholar widely read in the 
classics, the Fathers, and in general theology and Church 
history. His work, however, was disliked by certain other 
Portuguese literary men, because it was identified with 

1 Oxford Book of Portuguese Verse, 1925. No. 156. 

2 For this poet, see Ant6nio Ferrao in Academia das Cidncias de Lis~ 
boa, Boletim de 20, classe, xx (1926-29), p. 101. 

172 The Lisbon Earthquake 

the "modem'* school of French, writers, which at this time 
meant that his recent verse was lively, sentimental, and 

Immediately after the earthquake, Pina e Mello de- 
livered a most eloquent oration in the chapel of the Hos- 
pital Real at Montemor-o-Velho to the Confraternity of 
Our Lady of the Conception, and his poem, the ParSnesis, 
appeared in 1756. It began with an address to the fickle 
earth in the manner already described; and adds as a 
f urtlier reproach the lamentation that if, as now appeared, 
the divinely sponsored immobility of the earth could not 
be depended upon, the mad and impious Copernican the- 
ory gained some apparent and highly undesirable support; 
for Pino e Mello had no sympathy with or real knowl- 
edge of contemporary scientific thought in Europe, and 
he refused to believe, like the Bishop of Guadix and many 
contemporaries in Spain and Portugal, that the earth 
moved round the sun. Scientists, and their theories, must 
be denounced. The earth did not move. God had said 
so, and a natural explanation of the earthquake was there- 
fore unbelievable. God made the earthquake, and was 
speaking to wicked mankind through this awful happen- 
ing, this supremely unnatural event. And so we pass into 
the familiar theme of the sermons. 

That much we have heard before; but there is another 
thought expressed in this poem. Is God really merciful? 
If He is, can He contemplate unmoved by tears this bit- 
ter humiliation of His people? God is the Sovereign Au- 
thor of Nature, surveying and governing the huge extent 
of the globe from His heavenly throne; with His aid, spe- 
cially promised at Ourique, He has given the Portuguese 
mighty dominions and has led Portuguese missionaries 

The Injustice of God 173 

into the farthest corners of the earth in order to establish 
there His Church. Now He has forgotten the Portuguese 
achievements in His name; He has withdrawn His pro- 
tection; in contempt He has struck at the Portuguese. 
Poor Lisbon! Absorbed in revelry and vice, were you 
really more odious in God's sight than Nineveh? We are 
told plainly enough how wicked that city was, yet God 
permitted Nineveh to be given proper warning by a 
prophet and a fair chance to repent! Pina e Mello now 
seems too amazed by his own audacity to continue this 
line of thought. How dare he presume even to try to 
comprehend the divine wisdom? It is his duty to sub- 
mit; groaning and tearful he must humble himself before 
Providence, for he does know God can be merciful even 
in His anger; but a hint of his secret indignation is blurted 
out. If you are, O God, so generous and long-suffering, 
admit that the earthquake was an even more severe pun- 
ishment than we deserved; say, at any rate, that it is 
punishment enough! 

In his discourse to the Confraternity at Montemor-o- 
Velho the poet had already expressed this resentment in 
a passage of dramatic eloquence. He recalls the splendid 
history of his country achieved under the blessing of God 
and with the help of His strong arm. And now it all 
seems wasted endeavour, for if God remembered the 
mighty deeds performed and the hardships endured in 
His name, could He possibly be so angry with Portugal 
today? Does God think the Portuguese have degenerated? 
Were they not the same Portuguese to whom He made 
His promise at Ourique? What is going to happen next? 
May not even our Montemor-o-Velho be doomed? Is it 
not indeed likely that we shall give God further grave 

174 The Lisbon Earthquake 

offence by hardening our hearts against Him under such 
punishment, instead of repenting? But who are we, and 
who are you, O God? You are the holiest in the height, 
and we are poor rebels. You are firm of purpose; we are 
irresolute. You are unchangeable; we are inconstant and 
weak. And it is against such a paltry thing as man, man 
as powerless as an autumn leaf in the wind, that you, 
O God, let loose your omnipotent fury. Against man born 
in sin and corrupt; against man who by his very nature 
is inclined to do wrong. Job has said what the poet hardly 
dare say. If 3 O God, you desire greater obedience from 
me, why have you made me as I am? Why have you set 
me in opposition to yourself? Why not cleanse me of my 
innate weaknesses and my sins? At this point Pina e Mello 
breaks~off. He is mad, he says, to question the divine wis- 
dom, and he turns to a passionate and humble prayer to 
God Almighty for mercy, and then to the Virgin. It is 
the Virgin who will intercede for the Portuguese and 
plead their case before God; it is Our Lady alone who 
can turn away the divine wrath. 

In the context of this whole discourse, as in the con- 
text of the whole poem, Pina e Mello's grievance against 
God is mildly put and quickly hidden away in the sooth- 
ing assurances that he knows should be made. But that 
the earthquake should so profoundly affect him that he 
had to say these things is for eighteenth-century Portugal 
a startling indication of the depth of his feelings. Here 
was a poet, devotedly orthodox in his faith, hating heresy, 
with a mind fully made up about sin and consequential 
divine punishment, scorning science and absolutely refus- 
ing to believe that the earth moved round the sun, who 
was so shocked by the Lisbon earthquake that within a 

The Injustice of God 175 

few days of its happening he had asked aloud if God 

was just. 

The publication of the Parenesis created a flattering stir 
in the small literary circle of Pina e Niello's contemporary 
Portuguese writers, but the discussion was for the most 
part confined to a captious squabble about its form. A 
writer using the name Sigismundo Antonio Coutinho, who 
disliked the modern French style, attacked the poem at 
once, writing from the Arrabida district near Setubal to 
which he had fled after the earthquake and where (he 
says) he was busily repenting under religious guidance 
his former frivolous life in Lisbon. He said he was un- 
fitted to criticize the work of so great and so learned a 
poet as Pina e Mello, who had already collected for him- 
self a most useful claque of admirers; but he had to ad- 
mit he found the poem lacking in taste and poor in com- 
position. It did not even start right, for the poet ought 
not to have given a poem in Portuguese a Latin (sic) 
title. And he should not have written in verse at all, a 
most unsuitable vehicle in which to say proper things 
about such a tragic event as an earthquake; verse is sooth- 
ing soft stuff, and one required here either rugged ora- 
tory or a calm factual prose. Ambassadors and ministers 
do not conduct their business in verse, said Coutinho, pil- 
ing all the scorn of the "ancients" on this example of 
modernity. In the very first page there is a mistransla- 
tion of Ecclesiastes i. 4; the poet uses the verb descender 
incorrectly and introduces non-Portuguese words; he is 
guilty of pleonasm (for example, bdrbara ignordncia) and 
a shameless prosopopeia in pretending that the earth 
talks through earthquake-cracks; and there is a passage 

ij6 The Lisbon Earthquake 

in which Pina e Mello writes of a city as a world market 
without making it plain to this critic whether he meant 
Lisbon or Bahia in Brazil; he says there is now no more 
left of it than a miserable memory. If he refers to Bahia, 
how does he know it has been destroyed utterly? If he 
is really talking about Lisbon, everyone knows he is exag- 
gerating, and when he talks of Neptune raising his sceptre 
over the emporium who gave Neptune authority to raise 
his sceptre on land? What a lot of errors in five lines! 
The Parenesis seemed to be a very silly poem to those 
who did not believe that the earthquake was the action 
of a suddenly furious God, deliberately and indiscrimi- 
nately wreaking His frightful vengeance on a sinful city. 
Another poem, written by Antonio da Silva Figueiredo in 
advocacy of the theory of natural causes, quotes the pas- 
sage in which Pina e Mello describes how the earth- 
quake strikes alike at high and low, rich and poor, level- 
ling all men to the common status of a miserable victim; 
for in Silva Figueiredo^ view it is precisely this cruelly 
unjust mass-slaughtering of good and bad alike that shows 
God is not the immediate cause of the earthquake, even 
though an earthquake has its origin in a natural order 
that God Himself had permitted to be earthquake-pro- 
ducing. This argument against Pina e Mello is simply that 
God would have been an unjust God if He had delib- 
erately wrecked Lisbon, and Silva Figueiredo does not 
take advantage of the pessimism and doubt that are ex- 
pressed in the Par&nesis; to discover this mood again, 
more strongly and strangely presented, in these minor 
Portuguese writings of the time we must turn to a pam- 
phlet written in 1756 and published in 1757 by Joo Chris- 
ostomo de Faria Cordeiro de Vasconcellos de S&, known 

The Injustice of God 177 

as the author of a little collection o congratulatory verses 
addressed to King Jose that had appeared five years pre- 
viously. The intention of this Defensam Apologetica was 
to defend Pina e Mello against the attack of the writer 
who called himself Coutinho, which was easy enough 
since this author had nothing but silly quibbles to offer 
as objections; but having dealt with these, Faria Cordeiro 
took the opportunity of printing a poem of his own, ap- 
parently with the idea that his readers might see by com- 
parison between this and die Parenesis what a good poem 
that was. It is an eclogue written before he had seen the 
Parenesis. The story it tells is this: 

MenaMo and Aonio, two shepherds, are about to attend 
a village feast, but Aonio is in a depressed mood, for he 
finds life very hard and he is gloomily preoccupied with 
thoughts about the folly of careless optimism and the 
overshadowing terror of God's frequently provoked an- 
ger. Before the feast and the arrival of their friend Fron- 
doso from the city, they go into the village church, and 
while they are there an earthquake takes place, damag- 
ing the church and killing many people who were in- 
side it. The two shepherds escape, and find that the 
whole countryside has suffered severely; as the tremors 
cease Aonio exclaims that though God has temporarily 
suspended the punishment He is inflicting on the people 
for sins they have committed, the two shepherds are ob- 
viously still in danger. They then come upon the wrecked 
preparations for the feast, and now Menalio agrees sadly 
that a world in which joy can be so quickly reduced to 
sorrow and fright is indeed an appalling place. Every- 
thing in life is uncertain, replies Aonio, and while they 

178 The Lisbon Earthquake 

are reflecting that God has at least spared their lives 
Frondoso arrives in a state of great alarm and distress. 
Frondoso had been in the town during the earthquake 
and he has come to describe the appalling destruction 
and the horrors he witnessed among the ruins of its build- 
ings and streets. Aonio says he must at any rate thank 
God for his escape from death., inasmuch as the disaster, 
even though naturally caused, is a manifestation of the 
Eternal Power. He then speaks of the damage and loss 
of life that the earthquake has caused in the country and 
describes the dangers he and Menalio have escaped, for 
instance a rock crashing down from the mountain that 
nearly killed him. The great mistake he and his friends 
have made, he says, is that of being optimistic and for- 
getting the real lot of mankind. Life is not an oppor- 
tunity for personal advancement. It is a brief dream to 
be endured without protest. Ambition and discontent are 
fatal, and we run a continual risk of being punished by 
Heaven if we do not meekly accept our appointed des- 
tinies. It is indeed true that pride goes before a fall. The 
only thing to do now is for all three of them to stay 
where they are, accepting in full submission to divine 
Providence the terrible warning they have had, Frondoso 
is glad to take this advice and to remain in the hills, for 
he thinks that country folk have a better idea of their 
station in life than the townsmen. Menalio agrees; at any 
single moment the joyful assurance of the thoughtless man 
may be turned into bitter anguish. And then Aonio con- 
cludes that to avoid such tragedy we must set aside all 
thought of riches and advancement. He who is a shep- 
herd, let him contentedly remain a shepherd, and let lords 
look after their own dignities and power; but for us, let 

The Injustice of God 179 

it suffice that we are content to look after our sheep and 
lead a quiet village life. 

Pois so e para nos bastante idea 
Guardar oveihas, e viver na aldea, 

It is not a forced compliment to Faria Cordeiro that 
after describing his poem we should now turn at once 
to Voltaire. Faria Cordeiro felt about the earthquake what 
Voltaire felt; indeed, had Candide taken part in the dis- 
mal discussion between Aonio, Menalio, and Frondoso he 
might have suitably interjected at almost any point the 
celebrated remark with which he concludes the novel in 
which he appears. The shepherds substituted looking after 
their sheep for Candide's cultivation of his garden; but 
they all four thought alike; in such a dangerous world 
attempt nothing but one's simple and immediate way of 
earning one's living. It is certainly notable that in the 
context of this heavily censored and unpretentious Por- 
tuguese literature Faria Cordeiro should have given un- 
ambiguous expression to that variety of pessimism which 
found its most famous utterance in Voltaire's novel and in 
his Pome sur le desastre de Lisbonne. Pina e Mello had 
momentarily given way to the impatience of Job; but he 
had himself brushed aside as impious his outcry against 
the injustice of God; Faria Cordeiro allowed no softening 
of his shepherds* grievances; the earthquake had taught 
them they lived in a cruel world. After the earthquake 
they were not going to admit that everything that hap- 
pens happens for the best, that whatever is, is right. 

Chapter Seven 


JL ilow we pass from Portuguese to French liter- 
ature, 1 to Voltaire and to Rousseau, beginning at once 
with Voltaire's poem on the Lisbon earthquake, which he 
wrote very soon after hearing the news of the disaster. 2 
In his preface to it he says that its purpose was to ex- 
pose the folly of the popular optimism derived from Pope's 
Essay on Man (1733-34), an optimism that he calls the 
tout est bien philosophy. If, he asks, when Lisbon, Me- 
quinez, Tetudn, and so many other towns were destroyed 
with multitudes of their inhabitants in November 1755, 
the philosophers had said to 4 the wretched survivors, 
"Whatever happens is for the best; the heirs of the dead 
will benefit financially; the building-trade will enjoy a 

1 On the subject of French thought concerning the Lisbon earthquake 
see B. Rohrer, Das Erdbeben t?on Lissabon in der franzosischen Liteta- 
tur des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, Heidelberg, 1933; also W. H. Barber, 
Leibniz in France; from Arnauld to Voltaire, Oxford, 1955, I am sorry 
I did not read this important book before I wrote the chapter that fol- 
lows. I am, however, indebted to Mr. Theodore Besterman's Voltaire et 
le d6sastre de Lisbonne: ou la mort de I'Optisme, which the author was 
kind enough to show me in advance of its delivery and publication in 
the Travaux of the Institut et Musee Voltaire. 

2 The main idea expressed in the poem was in his mind by 3,4 No- 
vember 1755; cf. his letter to Robert Tronchin of that date. Lettres in- 
6dites aux Tronchin, i, cix. Geneva, 1950. The first version of the poem 
had been written by 7 December. 


Optimism Attacked 181 

boom; animals will grow fat on meals provided by the 
corpses trapped in the debris; an earthquake is a neces- 
sary effect of a necessary cause; private misfortune must 
not be overrated; an individual who is unlucky is con- 
tributing to the general good" would not such a speech 
be as cruel as the earthquake itself was destructive? We 
cannot turn our backs on the suffering this calamity has 
caused and pretend it is all some kind of benefit in dis- 
guise. We must admit there is evil, positive and inex- 
cusable evil, in the world, and that in short, said Voltaire, 
was the message of his poem. Let men henceforth think 
of ruined Lisbon and stop deluding themselves with the 
silly cliche tout est bien; the truth is otherwise. Le mal 
est sur la terre, 

Today we wonder that it should ever have been nec- 
essary to conduct such an argument, but when Voltaire 
wrote his poem the popular philosophy of optimism, the 
tout est bien kind to which he referred, had forgotten, or 
rather had chosen to ignore, the formidable significance 
of the problem presented to man by the existence of 
moral and physical evil. Evil was something that could 
be left in the background, unattended, a disagreeable and 
grating, but all the same necessary, part of the machinery 
that worked the world. This kind of optimism was not 
a variety of thought confined to readers of the learned 
periodicals, to scholars acquainted with Leibniz's Th4o- 
dicee and Monadologie, and to the intelligentsia who dis- 
cussed Pope's Essay on Man; it was a force generally in- 
spiring a contentment with the world as men then found 
it, a universal mood that had become, as Professor Basil 
Willey has said, **in essence an apologia for the status 

182 The Lisbon Earthquake 

quo/' 3 It was not even mainly an aristocratic mood, a 
kind of extravagant Versailles carelessness, but a popular 
creed. Almost every generalization about eighteenth-cen- 
tury thought can be strongly contradicted, but there is 
good reason for saying that most men at the time of the 
Lisbon earthquake were comfortably sure that the world 
was a good place in which everything that happened was 
on a long view likely to be "for the best/' and so they 
lived their lives as happily as they could, very little trou- 
bled by any responsibility for the alleviation of collective 

It is true enough that Voltaire first of all attacked this 
optimism in the form in which he found it in Pope's poem, 
for the famous passage at the end of the First Epistle be- 
ginning "Cease then, nor ORDER Imperfection name," con- 
densed into a conspicuous bull's-eye precisely the senti- 
ments to which he objected; and later he made Leibniz 
the butt of his novel Candide. But he was not conduct- 
ing an academic argument, and it is certainly true that 
the Lisbon earthquake-controversy in France did not de- 
pend upon a thorough re-examination of the theodicy of 
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), which was im- 
perfectly understood in that country and disliked by the 
Church as fatalistic. Voltaire really did not know much 
about what Leibniz had actually said, but with some jus- 
tification he took the cliches of the Leibnizian theodicy 
as symptomatic of popular optimism and poured upon 
them in Candide his own brilliant variety of destructive 
scorn. 4 

8 The Eighteenth Century Background, p. 48. London, 1953. On this 
subject cf. pp. 41-42 ante. 

4 Leibniz said that God, perfect in love, wisdom, and power, after 
considering all the logically possible worlds, created the world in which 

Optimism Attacked 183 

The importance of Voltaire's part in the moralizing over 
the Lisbon earthquake is that he had something to say 
to which a large audience would pay attention; for he 
was addressing contemporary European society on a gen- 
eral matter of conscience, knowing that the news of the 
earthquake was likely to have made his hearers in an un- 
expected measure vulnerable. Long before the earthquake 
took place, he had himself lost faith in this general op- 
timism, and he felt that this calamity provided an incon- 
testable and grisly proof that he was right in rejecting 
the tout est bien doctrine. He believed that everyone 
would now have to admit that man dare not hope for 
a safe life in this world under the benevolent protection 

there was the greatest excess of good over evil. God had therefore de- 
cided that a world containing no evil would not have been so good a 
world as this world, which does contain evil. Once this world was created 
and evil of various kinds admitted into it, God cannot logically intervene 
to prevent evil from fulfilling its appointed role, because to do this would 
imply that God had not chosen the best possible world. The theory of 
the pre-established harmony, which is the subject of much jesting in 
Candide, is a consequence of the theory of the monads which had forced 
Leibniz to the conclusion that at the time of the creation once and for 
all God had ordered everything that was ever going to happen ( Theodicy 
9). Therefore, we can be sure that a world in which there were no such 
things as disastrous earthquakes would not be so good a world as one 
in which they do occur. Leibniz, however, did not rate earthquakes 
very high as evil tilings. "One Caligula alone, one Nero, has caused 
more evil than an earthquake," he said (Theodicy 2,6). What we have 
to remember is that if we could understand the universal harmony, we 
should see that what we describe as a completely evil thing is a proper 
part of the plan most worthy of being chosen; in a word, we should 
ourselves understand that what God has done is the best (Dissertation 
44). Leibniz, however, would not have said that the Lisbon earthquake 
was a disguised blessing, for he admitted that what was "best" in the 
infinite wisdom of God may seem to us to be only a painful and waste- 
ful act of destruction, however much we may try to see some good in 
it; nor would he have said that the earthquake was a suddenly contrived 
punishment of the Lisbon people. Yet we are led to grace by the ways 
of nature (Monadology 88), and the mechanism of the physical world, 
determined at the creation, works in harmony with the course of its 
moral government, also determined at the creation. 

184 The Lisbon Earthquake 

of a Providence that could be counted on to reward vir- 
tuous behaviour. Man was weak and helpless, ignorant of 
his destiny, and exposed to terrible dangers, as all must 
now see; the optimism of the age must be replaced by 
something that is not much more than an apprehensive 
hope that Providence will lead us through our dangerous 
world to a happier state. Un jour tout sera bien should 
be the new limit of optimistic thought. 

Later, commenting on the Lisbon earthquake, Voltaire 
said that its effect was to make men introspective, by 
which he meant apprehensive about their mortality and 
ultimate destiny, and that wise observation should always 
be the first answer to the question in what way did the 
Lisbon earthquake influence European thought? Dread- 
ful doubts and fears chilled the hearts of men when they 
considered what the Lisbon earthquake must really have 
been like to those who died in it and to those who lived 
through it. No doubt, in their full intensity these doubts 
and fears were short-lived, and in many cases of the most 
superficial kind; but Voltaire knew that, and he regretted 
the way in which the world turned quickly again to its 
pleasures, trying to forget the earthquake as soon as pos- 
sible, in the excitements of dancing, the theatre, and the 
lottery. Yet the tremendous shock that the news had 
caused could not be completely absorbed by such feeble 
defences. Men were frightened. They asked what really 
was the part they had to play in God's scheme for the 
universe; what really was the nature of the Providence 
under whose protection they thought they lived; what, in 
fact, was their relation to God? 

The Po&me sur le dsastre de Lisbonne is addressed di- 
rectly to men in this mood, and, once in circulation, it 

Optimism Attacked 185 

was widely read and discussed, for it was the comment 
of one of the wisest men in Europe on a disaster that had 
shocked Western civilization more than any other event 
since the fall of Rome in the fifth century. As the poem 
was written so soon after the earthquake, Voltaire inevi- 
tably made some use of the earliest reports about the 
calamity; but he did not need gruesome overstatements 
to make the effect he wanted, and he knew quite well 
that the first accounts of the earthquake that reached 
Switzerland would need revision. "It is said that half the 
town is still standing/' he wrote on 16 December. "There 
is a tendency to exaggerate both good tidings and bad 
tidings on their first announcement/* B His poem obtained 
its hearing, because it dealt directly with the perplexity 
filling the minds of his readers, and because it is mov- 
ingly inspired by sorrow for the people of Lisbon. Con- 
dorcet, his biographer, said that though Voltaire was over 
sixty when he wrote this poem, his soul, deeply stirred 
by the suffering of humanity, had all the zest and all the 
fire of youth. Voltaire's melancholy is indeed strongly ex- 
pressed, and it is all the more powerful a force because 
he has so little comfort to offer humanity in place of the 
brittle optimism he was now determined to destroy. 

The poem is addressed to the deluded philosophes who 
tell everybody that all is for the best. They are told to 
look at tragic shattered Lisbon and its smoking ruins, and 
to think of the excruciating fate of the hundred thousand 
victims of the earthquake. Hearing their cries, seeing 
them being burnt alive or suffering other unspeakable tor- 
tures, are the philosophers going to tell us that all this 

11 Voltaire gives a revised reference to the Lisbon earthquake in the 
Precis du sledc de Louis XV (Moland), xv, 335-36. 

i86 The Lisbon Earthquake 

is part of the good providence of a benevolent God? Are 
we going to be told of these pitiful heaps of corpses that 
they are the bodies of sinners who are justly the victims 
of God's anger because of their crimes? 

Quel crime, quelle faute ont commis ces enfants 
Stir le sein maternel ecrases et sanglants? 
Lisbonne, qui n'est plus, eut-elle plus de vices 
Que Londres, que Paris, plonges dans les delices? 
Lisbonne est abimee, et Ton danse a Paris. 

The fine philosophers, comfortably far away from all 
this suffering, would talk very differently if such a dis- 
aster had befallen their own towns; then we should hear 
them crying out at the horrors that had afflicted them, 
and then they would recognize that a great earthquake 
brings nothing but miserable evil on man. Le bien fut 
pour Dieu $eul. B 

Croyez-moi, quand la terre entr'ouvre ses abimes, 
Ma plainte est innocente et mes cris 16gitimes. 

Are you going to tell me that pride is deceiving me, 
that pride makes me rebel against suffering? 

Allez interroger les rivages du Tage; 
Fouillez dans les debris de ce sanglant ravage; 
Deraandez aux mourants, dans ce s^jour d'effroi, 
Si c'est Forgueil qui crie: "O Dieu, secourez-moi! T 
O Ciel, ayez pitie de Thumaine miserel" 

We are told that all is for the best and that everything 
that happens must happen, but would the universe really 
be a worse place if it had not been found necessary to 

6 From a variant passage in a Geneva edition of 1756. 

7 In the final version, "O Ciel, secourez-moi." 

Optimism Attacked 187 

destroy Lisbon? Could not an omniscient and omnipotent 
God achieve His purpose otherwise? If there must be 
earthquakes why could not the ghastly things happen in 
the middle of the desert? 

Je respecte mon Dieu, mais f aime Fimivers. 

Will the wretched victims die consoled when you tell 
them that the earthquake happened for the general good? 
that Lisbon will be rebuilt? that it will become populous 
again? that northern Europe will become rich as a result 
of their losses? that all evil things that happen to us are 
according to the "general law" good things? that these 
poor people in their death-agonies and the worms that 
are about to devour them are alike playing their proper 
part in God's master plan? What horrible talk! 

Voltaire will have nothing more to do with the dread- 
ful doctrine of unchangeable laws of necessity. He be- 
lieves God is free, just, and merciful, so why do we have 
to suffer as we do? It is all very well to launch the furies 
of Heaven against rocks and trees; they do not feel. But 
man is alive and sensitive. He cannot help crying out in 
his misery. A pot, liable to be broken, does not ask the 
potter why it was made such a poor, coarse, brittle thing; 
for the potter did not give it a heart or feeling. Man will 
not be satisfied by being told that his misfortune is for 
somebody else's good. 

De mon corps tout sanglant mille insectes vont naitre; 
Quand la mort met le comble aux maux que f ai soufferts, 
Le beau soulagement d'etre inang^ des vers! 

It is easy to say that one suffering man is negligible in 
relation to God's whole design for the universe, but all 

i88 The Lisbon Earthquake 

living creatures seem to be condemned to existence in a 
ferocious world of pain and mutual slaughter. How can 
anyone say with conviction tout est bien? The world 
around us denies it, and the secret terrors of the phi- 
losophers must have told them a hundred times that it 
is not true. 

Elements, animaux, humains, tout est en guerre, 
II le faut avouer, le mal est sur la terre: 

And where has this evil come from? Can it possibly pro- 
ceed from the Author of all good things? One cannot 
stomach the idea that a benevolent God., loving His peo- 
ple and prodigally bestowing His benefits upon them, at 
the same time pours down every possible misfortune on 
their wretched heads* We listen to all the confusing and 
contradictory theodicies, and while we are arguing Lis- 
bon crashes into smoking dust, and the shock of a great 
earthquake shatters towns all the way from the Tagus to 

Voltaire shows that no theory resting on optimism and 
a belief in a kind and loving God can explain why man- 
kind should have been afflicted with such sorrow and suf- 
fering as the earthquake caused. He turns upon Leibniz. 
How does he explain the presence of all this misery in 
his "best of all possible worlds"? How does he account 
for the fact that the innocent suffer equally with the 
guilty? And now the poem moves to its terrible conclu- 
sion. We know nothing; nature has no message for us; 
God does not speak: 

On a besoin d*un Dieu qui parle au genre humain. 
II n'appartient qu'a lui d'expliquer son ouvrage, 
De consoler le faible, et d'eclairer le sage. 

Optimism Attacked 189 

Men are weak, grovelling, ignorant creatures, their bodies 
made for decay and their minds for grief. They know 
nothing of their origin or purpose or destiny: 

Atomes tourmentes sur cet araas de boue, 
Que la mort engloutit, et dont le sort se joue, 
Mais atomes pensants, atomes dont les yeux, 
Guides par la pensee, ont rnesure les cieux; 
Au sein de Finfini, nous elangons notre etre, 
Sans pouvoir un moment nous voir et nous connaitre. 
Que faut-il, o Mortels! Mortels, il faut souffrir, 
Se soumettre en silence, adorer, et mourir. 

Before it was printed Voltaire was curious to know what 
the effect of his poem would be when it was read in hos- 
tile or suspicious or easily offended religious circles. Of 
the first draft he had suggested in a lighthearted letter 
of 19 December 1755 to his most trusted old friend the 
Comte d'Argental that these verses were really only suit- 
able for private circulation among the philosophes; 8 he 
did not want to be thought mauuais thSologien, and he 
was prepared to take some trouble to alter his poem so 
that it should not offend the heresy-hunters or the timid 
thinkers. Later on, in April 1756, he wrote of this poem 
and of the deistic La Loi Naturelle, published with it, 
to another very old friend, Cideville, "I had to make my 
way of thinking clear; it is not that either of a super- 
stitious person or of an atheist. I am inclined to think that 
respectable folk will share my view." With the Lisbon 
earthquake-poem, the main trouble was the ending. Ber- 
trand, the pastor of the French Church at Berne (see p. 

8 MS. Louis Clarice. ". . . ils (ces vers tragiques) pourront exercer 
votre philosofie, et cette de votre Soci&6. Je les crois aussi sages quel 
est possible, et cle nature cependant a n'etre qu'en vos mains." 

190 The Lisbon Earthquake 

167), had told him that the pessimism of the last lines was 
hurtful and too violently expressed. Voltaire met the ob- 
jections by introducing "to hope" in the concluding line: 

Mortels, il faut souffrir, 
Se soumettre, adorer, esperer, et mourir. 

That was in February 1756, and his friends did not think 
it adequate; so, as he did not want his "sermon" to shock 
orthodox theologians too violently, he composed a new 
ending to it about the time the first printed edition of 
the original version appeared in Geneva, that is, in March 
1756. In this second and, so to speak, definitive version 
of the Poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne the last two 
lines are omitted, and the poem is continued with the 
observation that there is a great and often painful chase 
after happiness in progress in this world; we can at least 
say we are sometimes able temporarily to forget our sor- 
rows, and there is always the blessing of being able to 

Un jour tout sera bien, voila notre esperance, 

Tout est bien aujourd'hui, voila Fillusion. 

Les sages me trompaient, et Dieu seul a raison. 

I shall not blame Providence, said Voltaire. I myself 
used to write in a light, happy vein, but: 

D'autres temps, d'autres moeurs: instruit par la 


Des humains egares partageant la faiblesse, 
Dans une epaisse nuit cherchant k m'eclairer, 
Je ne sais que souffrir, et non pas murmurer. 

Once upon a time a caliph, dying, addressed this prayer 
to the God he worshipped: 

Optimism Attacked 191 

"Je t'apporte, 6 seul roi, seul etre iUimite, 
Tout ce que tu n'as pas dans ton immensite, 
Les defauts, les regrets., les maux, et Fignorance," 
Mais il pouvait encore ajouter Tesperance. 

There exists a copy corrected in Voltaire's hand that 
turns the last line into a question, as if Voltaire felt that 
his concessions to orthodox thought had gone a little too 

The early history of the poem and its first effects on 
French readers can be illustrated by reference to one or 
two other poems on the earthquake of about the same 
date. In the first place, almost anything might be expected 
of Voltaire, and in fact the circulation of his poem in 
Paris was preceded there by the appearance of some 
verses, believed to be by him, which were really written 
by his young friend the Marquis de Ximenez, an out- 
spoken free-thinker whose poem caused much offence. 
Ximenez was not prepared to say with Voltaire, Je re- 
specte mon Dieu, and his main point was that the much- 
advertised piety of the Portuguese had proved useless as 
a protection against an implacable and inexplicable God 
who had suddenly determined to obliterate Lisbon. He 
asked of what use were the armies of monks, the bloody 
labours of the Inquisition, the stores of relics, and the 
endless offerings made to thousands of saints? They were 
all now proved to be worthless as a means of propitiat- 
ing God. Heretic England was now laughing at the de- 
votions of the Roman Church. The pirates of Algiers could 
now plunder Portugal happily; Heaven was on their side. 

fl Mais pouvait-il encore ajcmter Fesp^rance? See George R. Havens: 
Modern Language Notes, XLIV (1929), pp. 489 ff. 

192 The Lisbon Earthquake 

O Providence, if sometimes in despair we lose faith in 


C'est quand le bras qui frappe la vertu, 
N'a pas au moins commence par le crime. 

One of the consequences of the great earthquake that 
had caused much distress in French literary society was 
the death of the young Racine, son of the poet Louis 
Racine, and grandson of Jean Racine, the dramatist. This 
unfortunate youth was drowned in the seismic wave that 
poured over the slender isthmus between the city of Cd- 
diz and the mainland, with the result that his wretched 
father, brokenhearted, went into complete retirement. 
Several poets attempted to console him with offerings 
of verse, and one of these pieces, by Jean Jacques Le- 
franc, Marquis de Pompignan, was published in the Jour- 
nal Encyclopedique next to the poem of the impious Mar- 
quis de Ximenez as a wholesome corrective. This presents 
us with the opposite point of view, the complacent at- 
titude to disaster that Voltaire wished to disturb and 

In fifteen verses this simple, serious man, who so hated 
the philosophes that he described their work in this poem 
as recherches pleines d'imposture and essais pusillanimes, 
who, after his inaugural address to the Academie Fran- 
gais in 1760 was so ridiculed, chiefly by Voltaire, that he 
was forced into retirement, this godly man summarized 
ineptly but with Christian bluntness the pious resignation 
that most of all irritated his opponents. Young Racine is 
at peace in Heaven. We on earth grieve, but at the same 
time we know that the innocent are required to suffer 
while in this world, and we do not complain, because 

Optimism Attacked 193 

Christians are sure that the sufferers will be recompensed 
in their future life. Presumptuous philosophes who de- 
pend on scientific explanations of calamities like the Lis- 
bon earthquake have no such consolation; they try to shut 
God out of their minds and to forget that an earthquake 
may be the result of His anger. We, on the other hand, 
have our faith, a faith that can overcome the very worst 
griefs. Let us expect nothing as certain in this life but 
the inevitable hour of death, death that is to be followed 
by eternal happiness or eternal damnation. 

Voltaire's Poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne was 
printed in a censored form in the Journal Encyclope- 
dique for April 1756, with an introductory note explain- 
ing that since the flame of his genius sometimes led him 
to stray beyond the limits that a good Christian ought 
to observe, a few short passages likely to cause offence 
had been omitted., their place being marked by asterisks. 
Immediately after this comes a Reponse a Mr. De V. ... 
ou Defense de TAxiome, Tout est bien, a poem by an 
anonymous author who thought that, though one may 
grieve over the fate of Lisbon, it was blasphemous pre- 
sumption to question God's goodness because of the earth- 
quake, thus condemning as an evil thing an event that 
God Himself had decided should take place. A slave has 
no right to question a slave-master. God commands, and 
man must obey in total submission, receiving the gifts of 
Providence with gratitude and divine punishment in meek 
and unprotesting shame. One of these gifts is hope. Even 
the earthquake-victim's pitiful cry, "O God, help me," ex- 
presses a hope that mercifully lessens the agony of death 
in an earthquake. The truth is that we fear death too 

194 The Lisbon Earthquake 

much, said this poet, in company with other writers who 
were shocked by Voltaire's pessimism. 

We come to the heart of the controversy with Rous- 
seau's letter to Voltaire of 18 August 1756. 10 Rousseau was 
then forty-three, known as a musician and as the author 
of a famous essay, Discours sur les arts et sciences, in 
which he had delighted civilized France by proving the 
superiority of the savage state; but his most celebrated 
works had not yet been published. He had no open quarrel 
with Voltaire, who had arranged for the little volume con- 
taining La Loi Naturelle and the poem on the earthquake 
to be sent to him; probably Rousseau was already envious 
of Voltaire's fame and had smarted under his witty criti- 
cism of the Discours; but the letter is not a display of 
polemical fireworks set off merely to irritate the great 
man; on the contrary, it is a sincere expression of some- 
thing Rousseau felt he had got to say, and he began by 
saying that he entirely approved of La Loi Naturelle. It 
was the earthquake poem that had upset him. 

Rousseau rejected Voltaire's gloomy picture of man's 
unhappy fate on earth. He said that the optimism at- 
tacked in the poem had helped him to endure the very 
things supposed to be unendurable. Man must be patient, 
recognizing evil as a necessary consequence of his own 
nature and of the nature of the universe. A benevolent 
God desired to preserve man from evil, and of all the 
possible systems whereby His creation might be ordered, 
He had chosen the one that contained the least evil and 
the most good. Put bluntly, said Rousseau, the reason why 
God had not done better for mankind was that He could 

10 Lettre de J. J. Rousseau citoyen de Geneve & Monsieur de Voltaire. 
First published 1759. 

Optimism Attacked 195 

not do better. Voltaire, on the other hand, argues that 
an omnipotent God could have prevented evil from tar- 
nishing His creation, and the fact that He did not do so 
means that the only discoverable reason for our existence 
on earth is that we are here in order to suffer and to 
die. That view Rousseau could not accept. He maintained 
that moral evil originated in man himself, and that, even 
though physical evil is a necessary part of the creation, 
the majority of physical evils are man's own fault. This 
did not dispose of Voltaire's argument; indeed, Voltaire 
agreed that man was responsible for much of the evil in 
the world; xl but Rousseau wanted to put the case in its 
most extreme form. 

Consider Lisbon, for example. It was not nature that 
had congregated twenty thousand houses of six or seven 
stories on that particular site. If the inhabitants of the 
city had not chosen to crowd themselves together in dan- 
gerous buildings, the damage would have been much less. 
Had they dwelt properly distributed and in smaller houses 
they could have escaped easily at the first shock and have 
been far from the danger-centre by the next day; but 
they stayed obstinately on the spot, worrying about their 
money and their possessions, and many were killed in con- 

Everyone would agree with Voltaire in wishing the 
earthquake had taken place in the middle of a desert 
rather than at Lisbon. There are earthquakes in deserts, 
but we do not hear much about them as they do no harm 

11 In a letter to Pastor Allamand of Bex of 16 December 1755, re- 
ferring to the Lisbon earthquake, Voltaire said, "Je plains comme vous 
les portugais; mais les hommes se font encore plus de mal sur leur pe- 
tite taupiniere que ne leur en fait la nature. Nos guerres 6gorgent plus 
d'hommes que les trernblements de terre n'en engloutissent." 

196 The Lisbon Earthquake 

to the precious town-dwellers, and merely frighten a few 
savages who are sensible enough to live scattered over a 
large area and do not have to fear falling roofs and burn- 
ing houses. What does Voltaire really mean? Are the town- 
dwellers 7 requirements to alter the laws of nature? Man 
cannot talk in this way. We cannot so arrange matters 
that to prevent an earthquake at a certain place, we have 
only got to go and set up a town there! 

Rousseau's general case in favour of the tout est bien 
school of thought depends on the usual arguments. It is 
not always a misfortune to be killed suddenly. Providence 
is a universal supervision of God's creation and is not 
concerned with what happens to an individual creature 
during his brief appearance on earth. And so on. The im- 
portant part of the letter is Rousseau's perception of the 
fundamental difference between the kind of man who is 
a pessimist, and the kind of man who is an optimist,, in 
regard to the circumstances of our mortal life. Voltaire is 
accused of thinking that few people would wish to be 
reborn to live again the same kind of life they have al- 
ready lived. He got that idea from Erasmus, said Rous- 
seau, and he went on to ask whom Voltaire had actually 
consulted on this point? Bored, stupid, frightened rich 
people? Or his fellow-writers, a sedentary, unhealthy, un- 
happy lot of men? He ought to have consulted an honest 
bourgeois, a good craftsman, or one of his Swiss peasants. 
Rousseau said there was probably not one single high- 
lander of the "haut Valais" who was tired of his simple 
existence and would not exchange Paradise for the chance 
to be reborn time after time so that he could go on liv- 
ing his accustomed uneventful life for ever and ever. 

In a famous passage at the end of the letter Rousseau 

Optimism Attacked 197 

presents the problem as the personal difference between 

himself and Voltaire: 

Je ne puis m'empecher, Monsieur, de remarquer a ce 
propos une opposition bien singuliere entre vous et moi 
dans le sujet de cette lettre. Rassasie de gloire et des- 
abuse des vaines grandeurs vous viviez libre au sein de 
Fabondance, bien sur de llmmortalite vous philosophez 
paisiblement sur la nature de Tame, et si le corps ou le 
coeur souffre vous avez Tronchain pour Medecin et 
pour Ami; vous ne trouvez pourtant que mal sur la 
terre; et moi, homme obscur, pauwe, et tourmente d'un 
mal sans remede, je medite avec plaisir dans ma re- 
traite, et je trouve que tout est bien. 

And how is this difference to be explained? The an- 
swer is to be found in the word hope with which Voltaire 
ended his poem. His variety of hope is vague and dubious, 
and without anything better than that, worldly happiness 
and prosperity, such as he enjoys, is worth nothing; there- 
fore he is a pessimist. But Rousseau possesses hope of 
another kind, strong and certain, a hope that illumines and 
beautifies everything in his life. He can tolerate no doubt 
on the subject of the immortality of the soul and the 
heavenly recompense that he will receive for his suffer- 
ing on earth. God is kind. Tout est bien. Rousseau was 
absolutely sure. 

We see now that the arguments about God's providence 
that were the result of the Lisbon earthquake are in de- 
tail not very important. As Rousseau had said earlier in 
this same letter, for the pious Providence is always right 
and for the philosophes it is always wrong. Men have a 

198 The Lisbon Earthquake 

conviction one way or the other, and this conviction can- 
not be altered for one party by pointing to the unjust 
death of innocent people, or for the other party by ob- 
serving that premature death saves its victims from a 
gruesome death-bed agony in old age and sends them 
to Heaven unembarrassed by a load of sins that they 
would have committed had they lived. Therefore, we need 
not examine in full the small pros and cons of this un- 
availing dispute; but we cannot leave the matter with- 
out noting one or two more expressions of opinion. And, 
finally, there is Candide. 

First there is Immanuel Kant, aged thirty-one, at the 
beginning of his great career and still closely adhering to 
the optimistic philosophy of Leibniz. When the news of 
the Lisbon earthquake reached Konigsberg the townsfolk, 
as was generally the case in Germany, were exceedingly 
alarmed and also full of sympathy for the Portuguese; but 
young Kant seems to have been first of all more inter- 
ested in the event as a scientific problem than as a tragedy 
that had destroyed a city and led to great loss of life. 
He published three short papers on the subject in 1756, 
reviewing theories of the causes of earthquakes and re- 
cording all the attendant phenomena of the 1755 shock, 
the widespread nature of which had strongly impressed 
him. He even includes a note on the beneficial aspect of 
earthquakes. Just as we complain of ill-timed or exces- 
sive rain, forgetting that rain feeds the springs necessary 
in our economy, so we denounce earthquakes, refusing to 
consider whether they, too, may not bring us good things. 
Are they, in the first place, really as bad as we make out? 
We lament the dead; but all men must die. We grieve 
over the loss of property; but property is not everlasting. 

Optimism Attacked 199 

Our cities of high houses will inevitably be destroyed if 
we build them in places like Lisbon. Earthquakes are a 
part of nature; and instead of expecting nature to suit 
our convenience we must accommodate ourselves to na- 
ture. On the credit side let us remember that the subter- 
ranean fire that is the cause of earthquakes also gives us 
hot springs and baths; it has also formed the valuable 
mineral ores in the rocks; vegetation benefits by the re- 
lease of subterranean substances; the escaping sulphur 
fumes have a welcome sanitary effect. It is possible the 
world itself would not really be a warm enough place to 
support life properly without this subterranean fire. It may 
occasionally do great damage, but it seems very likely that 
we could not get on without it, and we ought to be grate- 
ful for it. 

Finally, Kant added a short note about earthquakes in 
relation to God's government of the world. In this, his 
pre-critical and Leibnizian period, he could offer only 
small comfort, pointing out that at least we are not the 
helpless victims of a dangerous natural order that may 
irresponsibly destroy us at any time, because the course 
of our lives in prosperity and adversity has been deter- 
mined by God. However, his modest postscript is histori- 
cally interesting. In his later life he rejected any theodicy 
dependent on our reasoning about God's purpose, since 
he maintained that human reason was powerless in this 
respect, and even in this early footnote to a natural his- 
tory paper he condemned the interpretation of the Lisbon 
earthquake as the punishment of a sinful town, not be- 
cause such an interpretation was uncharitable, but be- 
cause it was a shocking act of impertinence to offer any 
opinion at all on such a subject. We cannot possibly know 

200 The Lisbon Earthquake 

why God allowed this earthquake to happen. We must re- 
member that man is not the only object of divine care; 
God in His inscrutable wisdom presides over the whole 
gigantic content of nature, and it may be necessary that 
the ordering of the universe should include events unfa- 
vourable to man. But at this point Kant makes an impor- 
tant observation. In practice, he says, we are not left in 
any uncertainty. We know what we must think and what 
we must do. We know that this disaster teaches us that 
we were not created for life in the present world only 
and that we cannot expect our longing for happiness to 
be fully satisfied here; we know also that it is now more 
than ever our business to love our neighbours and do all 
that we can to make this world a pleasant place. This is 
the germ of Kant's subsequent view that the only pos- 
sible theodicy is a practical act of faith in divine justice. 
If our reason can assure us that there is a God, and that 
He is good, then our lives must be lived in absolute loy- 
alty to Him, however grievous the misfortunes of our- 
selves or our fellow-men. 

Another young man who wrote on this subject was 
Louis de Beausobre (1730-83), son of a Protestant the- 
ologian who had taken refuge in Berlin and won the fa- 
vour of Frederick the Great. He had been sent to Paris 
for his education, and there he wrote a book called Essai 
sur le Bonheur, which was published in 1758. In this he 
fought a fine battle on behalf of the tout est bien school 
of thought. He said there was far too much crying out 
about the horrors of a great disaster like the Lisbon earth- 
quake; in fact, he thought the frwoles declamatews, wail- 
ing about the tragedy in Portugal, were probably not so 
grieved as they pretended to be, and that there was a 

Optimism Attacked 201 

great deal of exaggeration and insincerity. Men forget the 
blessings and happiness of normal life when they are sud- 
denly shocked by a great disaster; they think only of grief 
and suffering, and say God's providence has failed them. 
What does it all amount to? asked Louis de Beausobre. 
The earthquake victims are dead; but death is not a 
greater evil when it strikes many people simultaneously 
than when it removes them one by one at intervals, so 
why should death suddenly be deemed so awful when it 
is accompanied by the quaking of the earth? Why is it 
specially sad to die in a disaster? And what is so terrible 
about a disaster like this earthquake? A lot of riches are 
lost; but man can get on without them. Overthrown cities 
can be rebuilt. A great calamity is just a multiplication 
of the ordinary calamities that may happen to anyone 
without causing any general alarm. Suffering simultane- 
ously with others does not make suffering worse, and all 
that can really be said about an earthquake as an evil 
thing is that it causes a greater total amount of grief on 
one occasion than a single accident. At which we may be 
sorry; but, after all, plagues, war, famine, and earthquakes 
are divine punishments on mankind., and we cannot ex- 
pect them to be pleasant. 

If this young gentleman was thinking of Voltaire when 
he referred to the frivoles dSclamateurs and believed he 
had scored a point or two against the Poeme sur le d&- 
sastre de Lisbonne, he was very quickly made aware of 
his mistake, for in the following year ( 1759) Candide was 
published, and the whole tout e$t bien philosophy was 
thereby blown to pieces in company with poor Louis de 
Beausobre's book and everything else of the kind to the 

202 The Lisbon Earthquake 

accompaniment of the derisive laughter of literary Eu- 
rope. Voltaire had not changed his mind. He disliked more 
and more the common version of Leibniz's theodicy now 
that the earthquake had shown its obvious untenability, 
and he knew there was confusion of thought on this sub- 
ject since he himself had been classed as an optimist, 
having once said that he considered it was proved that 
there was more good than bad in the world. 12 He now 
knew that there was much evil, unfair, undeserved, cruel 
evil, for man in this world, and in the autumn and win- 
ter of 1758 the thoughts that had been developing in his 
mind over many years blossomed suddenly into the bril- 
liant little novel that on publication instantly made every 
glib optimist look a fool. It is the end of the controversy. 
"After Candide, there was no more to be said; the case 
was finished, and the case was lost/' 18 

Candide is, as we have said, directed against Leibniz 
rather than Pope, for Pangloss, the philosopher, is a Ger- 
man primed with a complete apparatus of cliches and 
jargon derived from Leibniz's TheodicSe; but the general 
target of all this rapid-fire raillery is the uncritical pop- 
ular mixture of his optimism and Pope's, and the inade- 
quacy of providential protection. 14 The novel is so sim- 

12 Cf. Vicomte d'Ales de Corbet, P.A. De Torigine du Mai, p. 50. 
Paris, 1758, 

13 Paul Hazard: European Thought in the Eighteenth Century, trans. 
J. Lewis May, p. 322. London, 1954. Hazard adds, "Not that optimism 
suddenly disappeared completely; a doctrine lives on for a long time, 
even when wounded, even when its soul has fled/' 

14 David Hume wrote on 12 April 1759 to Adam Smith, "Voltaire has 
lately published a small work called Candide ou Uoptimisme, It is full 
of sprightlmess and Impiety, and is indeed a Satyre upon Providence, 
under Pretext of criticizing the Leibnitian System." New Letters, ed. 
Klibansky and Mossner, Oxford, 1954. William Warburton's judgement 
on this novel is also interesting; "The real design of Candide is to rec- 
ommend naturalism (i.e. natural religion); the professed design is to 

Optimism Attacked 203 

pie in structure that its point could hardly be missed by 
the most careless reader. Poor Candide, always hankering 
after the equally unfortunate heroine, Cunegonde, pro- 
gresses hopefully and trustingly and rapidly through a 
world packed with every imaginable misery for him, in- 
cluding excruciating physical hardships and cruelly delu- 
sive periods of respite. From time to time Dr. Pangloss, 
who has his own special ration of hardship to endure, ap- 
pears as his companion and comforter, always ready to 
justify every new horror befalling the characters in the 
book as a necessary event in the pre-established harmony 
of the universe. The story ranges round the world, but 
early in the tale Candide sails for Lisbon with Pangloss 
and also the Anabaptist James, who alone had befriended 
him in Holland. Their ship is caught in a most dreadful 
storm within sight of Lisbon, and at this point we can 
have a short extract from the tale itself: 

Half of the passengers, exhausted and violently sea- 
sick, were too miserable even to worry about their dan- 
ger; but the others kept crying out in terror and pray- 
ing. The sails were torn; the masts broke; the ship be- 
gan to leak very badly. Those who could tried to keep 

ridicule the optimisme not of Pope, but of Leibniz, which is founded 
professedly in fate, and makes a sect in Germany . . you will won- 
der perhaps, the translation was made at my recommendation." War- 
burton-Hurd Letters. 8 July 1759, No. cxxx. It is a tribute to this novel 
that two English translations, one by William Rider, were published in 
London in 1759. For the background to Candide, see the introduction 
by Andr6 Morize to the edition published by the Soci&e' des textes fran* 
gais modernes, Paris (Hachette), 1913; also introductions by Richard Al- 
dington in Candide and other Romances (Broadway Translations), Lon- 
don, 1927; by H. N. Brailsford in Candide and Other Tales (Everyman's 
Library, No. 936), London, 1937, a volume that contains Smollett's 
translation revised by James Thornton; by O. R. Taylor in Candide 
(BlackwelFs French Texts), Oxford, 1942; and by John Butt to his 
translation in the Penguin Classics, first published in 1947. 

2O4 The Lisbon Earthquake 

her under control, but nobody knew what ought to be 
done and nobody gave any orders. The Anabaptist was 
trying to help on deck when a brutal sailor struck him 
hard and sent him sprawling, so hard that on the recoil 
the wretch fell overboard headfirst and hung over the 
waters hooked up on a bit of broken mast. The kindly 
Anabaptist picked himself up and tried to rescue him, 
and he did succeed in hoisting the sailor aboard, but in 
the effort of doing so he was himself thrown into the 
sea and was drowned in full view of the man he had 
saved, who let him perish without even giving him a 
look. Candide came up at this moment and saw his 
poor benefactor appear for the last time and then dis- 
appear for ever. He wanted to throw himself off into 
the sea after him, but Pangloss stopped him, pointing 
out that the Tagus approach to Lisbon had been created 
on purpose for this Anabaptist to be drowned in it. 
While he was proving this a priori, the ship went down, 
and every single person lost his life except Pangloss, 
Candide, and the brutal sailor. This villain swam ashore 
very comfortably, and eventually Pangloss and Candide 
also got there on a plank. 

When they had recovered a little, they walked to- 
wards Lisbon, hoping to get something to eat after their 
ordeal, as Candide still had some money left; but they 
had scarcely entered the city when suddenly the earth 
shook violently under their feet. The sea rose boiling 
in the harbour and broke up all the craft anchored 
there; the city burst into flames, and ashes covered the 
streets and squares; the houses came crashing down, 
roofs piling up on foundations, and even the founda- 
tions were smashed to pieces. Thirty thousand inhabit- 
ants of both sexes and all ages were crushed to death 
under the ruins. The sailor, whistling and swearing, 

Optimism Attacked 205 

cried, "We are going to make something out of this!" 
Pangloss asked aloud, "Whatever can be the sufficient 
cause of this phenomenon?" Candide said it must cer- 
tainly be the Last Day. The sailor, however, plunged 
recklessly into the ruins, risked death again and again 
to get at money, found some and grabbed it, got drunk, 
slept till he was sober, and then got hold of the first 
whore he could find among the dead and the dying in 
this dreadful pile of ruins. Pangloss tugged him by the 
sleeve. "My friend," he said, "this is not right. You have 
not properly taken into consideration the universal rea- 
son; you are timing things badly." "Hell to you," roared 
the creature. "I am a sailor, Java-born. I have been 
four times to Japan, and have insulted the crucifix each 
trip. YouVe got hold of the wrong man with this uni- 
versal reason of yours!" 

Some falling masonry had hit Candide, and he lay 
flat in the street covered with debris. He said to Pan- 
gloss, "I am dying. Get me a little wine and oil." "An 
earthquake is nothing new," Pangloss replied; "Lima in 
America had the same experience last year. Similar 
causes, similar effects. Obviously, there is a train of sul- 
phur running under the earth all the way from Lima 
to Lisbon." "Nothing is more probable," said Candide; 
"but for God's sake get me a little oil and wine." "What 
do you mean by probable?" asked Pangloss indignantly. 
"I maintain the case is proved." At this point Candide 
lost consciousness, and Pangloss brought him some wa- 
ter from a fountain close at hand. 

The next day, having found some provisions by 
scrambling about among the ruins, they felt a bit bet- 
ter and were able to take part in the relief work. Some 
of the survivors in return managed to give them a meal 
of a sort, though it was a melancholy affair as every- 

206 The Lisbon Earthquake 

body was tearful and depressed, all except Pangloss 
who comforted them with the assurance that things 
could not have turned out otherwise than they had 
done, "For/' he said, "all this is necessarily for the best; 
because if there is a volcano under Lisbon, it could not 
be anywhere else, since it is impossible that things 
should not be exactly as they are. For tout est bienf 

A little man in black, an officer of the Inquisition, 
who was sitting beside him, observed politely, "Appar- 
ently, Sir, you do not believe in original sin; for if 
everything is for the best, what becomes of the Fall 
and punishment for sin?" *1 humbly beg Your Excel- 
lency's pardon," answered Pangloss, even more politely; 
"the Fall and the consequent curse upon mankind en- 
tered necessarily into the best of possible worlds/' 
"Then you don't believe in free will?" asked the man 
from the Inquisition. "Your Excellency must excuse me/' 
said Pangloss, "but I assure you free will and absolute 
necessity are not mutually contradictory terms; for it 
was necessary that we should be free, because the de- 
terminate will . , ." Here he was cut short as the In- 
quisition official made a sign to his servant who was 
that moment handing the great philosopher a glass of 

After the earthquake, which had destroyed three- 
quarters of Lisbon, the Portuguese pundits could not 
think of any better way of preventing total ruin than 
to treat the people to a splendid auto-da-f, for the 
University of Coimbra had declared that the spectacle 
of a number of people being ceremonially burnt over 
a slow fire was an infallible way of preventing an earth- 
quake. So they seized for this purpose a Basque who 
had married his godmother, and also two Portuguese 
caught out in the Jewish trick of refusing to eat the 

Optimism Attacked 207 

bacon-part of a larded chicken. Pangloss and his pupil 
Candide were also both arrested at the dinner in the 
ruins, one for having spoken imprudently, and the other 
for having listened approvingly. Both of them were 
marched off and imprisoned separately in extremely 
cold cells where there was not the slightest danger of 
their suffering any inconvenience from the sun. A week 
later they were each dressed up in a sanbenito (a her- 
etic's robe) with a paper mitre as a hat. Candide's cos- 
tume was decorated with lames pointing downwards 
and devils without tails or claws; but Pangloss's devils 
had both tails and claws, and his flames were shooting 
upwards. Thus clothed, they were led off in a proces- 
sion and listened to a very moving sermon, followed 
by some nice music in counterpoint. Candide was 
flogged in rhythm with the chanting; the Basque and 
the two men who wouldn't eat bacon were burnt, and 
Pangloss was hanged, though that was not the normal 
practice at these ceremonies. The same day there was 
another tremendous and very noisy earthquake that did 
great damage. 

Candide, terrified almost out of his wits, covered with 
blood, and trembling violently, said to himself, "If this 
is the best of all possible worlds, whatever must the 
others be like?" 

The sufferers in this novel are a very tough lot. Pan- 
gloss, taken down when he was only half dead, recovers 
consciousness when he is being dissected, and Cun^gonde, 
believed to have been disembowelled by the Bulgars in 
her ancestral home, turns up in Lisbon having suffered 
nothing worse than a cut in the groin and frequent rap- 
ing. At the end of the book, when at last all their trials 
and disappointments are over, a little party finished up 

2o8 The Lisbon Earthquake 

on a small farm near Constantinople. The chief characters 
assembled are Candide; Cunegonde, now a scraggy old 
shrew; her ancient attendant, the Pope's daughter, who 
had a buttock cut off and eaten by Turkish soldiers; Mar- 
tin, a pessimistic old scholar picked up in America; and 
Pangloss, now become a revolting, pimply syphilitic. 

But Pangloss is still an unchanged tout est bien opti- 
mist. Candide asked him, "When you were hanged, dis- 
sected, beaten black and blue, and when you were row- 
ing in that galley, did you always think that everything 
in this world is for the best?" "I have not changed my 
mind at all," Pangloss answered. "I am a philosopher, and 
it would not be proper for me to do so; besides Leibniz 
could not have been wrong." Candide, however, had been 
thinking things over. He had come very bravely through 
his sufferings; he had never really lost heart or given up 
hope; but he had found that the commonly accepted 
worldly ways of being happy did not bring happiness. 
He is impressed, however, by the example of a happy 
and sensible Turk who kept clear of politics and all 
worldly affairs, knowing Constantinople only as a good 
market for the produce of his tiny estate. "Work with- 
out worrying," the pessimistic Martin had said; "it is the 
only way to make life endurable." So the little group set 
to work to develop their own small farm. Occasionally 
Pangloss would remark, "There is a chain of events in the 
best possible worlds. For if you had not been chased out 
of the Baron's castle with a kick on the bottom for mak- 
ing love to Miss Cunegonde; if you had not been caught 
by the Inquisition; if you had not wandered about Amer- 
ica on foot; if you had not run your sword through Miss 
Cun^gonde's brother, and lost the gold you got in Eldo- 

Optimism Attacked 209 

rado, you would not be here munching preserved fruit 
and pistachio nuts." "That may be quite true/' Candide 
would reply. "Neverthless, we have got to work in our 
garden" 15 

So the novel ends on this quiet note. In spite of all the 
evil on earth, hope does still remain, the unquenchable 
hope of humanity for sufficiency and contentment. One 
facile kind of optimism is dead, but Voltaire knows that 
there is another humble, tough, and resilient human op- 
timism that no adversity can completely extinguish. It is, 
admittedly, a vulnerable attitude of mind; but, at least, 
it is always there. The prospect for mankind is not hope- 
lessly dark, provided that we all perform our immediate 
duties quietly and efficiently, and undisturbed by ambi- 

It is said of the Lisbon earthquake that it brought an 
age to an end, and in the sense that the characteristic 
popular optimism of the first half of the eighteenth cen- 
tury did not long survive the disaster, this saying is as 
tine as any such generalization can be about so self -con- 
tradictory and complicated a subject as eighteenth-cen- 
tury thought. After the earthquake pessimism became a 
more familiar and understandable mood, while the unde- 
featably hopeful minds occupied themselves more and 
more with the idea of perfectibility, a gradual progress 
by man under God's providence towards a full happiness 
and perfection. In effecting this change, the influence of 
Candide played a significant part; indeed, what the trag- 
edy of the Lisbon earthquake had only partly achieved 

15 On this famous passage, see the notes to Best, 185, Voltaire's Cor- 
respondence, i. 

2io The Lisbon Earthquake 

by the resulting emotions of horror and pity, a novel 
turned into a significant revolution of thought. 

A young French poet gives an example of the changed 
outlook. When the Lisbon earthquake happened, Ponce- 
Denis Ecouchard Le Bran, already a budding literary 
figure of some promise, was twenty-six. As soon as the 
news reached Paris he wrote a poem on the disaster that 
was published almost immediately, a prettily conventional 
piece about the folly of pride. Lisbon was overproud; now 
Lisbon, Queen of the Seas, is no more; puny, foolish man- 
kind must reflect that it is God who rules the world. Then 
came the further news of the death of young Racine, and 
deeply grieved at the loss of this beloved friend, Le Brun 
wrote a second poem, gloomily describing the physical 
causes of earthquakes and the terrible effects the forces 
of nature can produce. God seems to be always changing 
the face of the world and the life upon it; He oppresses 
in this way sea and land and all mankind; He mocks our 
credulous happiness; there is ultimately no escape from 
the forces He has unleashed against us. Smyrna, Pompeii, 
Herculaneum, Lima, and now Lisbon! We are all in peril. 

The world is a hard place for us poor mortals. What 
have they really done to deserve such miseries? Dear Ra- 
cine, cries Le Brun, if my complaints can reach you in 
the shades, let my love for you make up for the cruel 
injustice of fate. 

In 1761, in the middle of the Seven Years' War, Le 
Brun, who was newly married and had a good post 
and no private reasons at that time for being excessively 
gloomy, wrote an "Ode to the Sun on the Misfortunes 
of the Earth since the Lisbon earthquake in 1755.** "O 

Optimism Attacked 211 

Sun/' he asked, "have you ever looked upon such awful 
horrors as those now afflicting mankind?" The earthquake 
at this moment seemed almost a minor disaster, for man 
himself had begun to join with nature in wrecking the 
world. There had been an attempt to assassinate King 
Louis XV in 1757, and also an attempt on the life of King 
Jose of Portugal in 1758, even while poor Lisbon still lay 
in ruins. "O Sun! When you looked down almost into 
Hell through the earthquake-chasms did you not see the 
evil spirits escaping?" Three times in this century the 
Turks have terrified Europe, and Europe itself is ablaze 
with war; from the Dneiper and the Vistula to the Thames 
and the Seine the rivers are crowded with assembling 
fleets. And consider the New World! Tyrannical Europe 
has inflicted every possible misery on America, and the 
greed of white men has destroyed the happiness of the 
native peoples. England is at war with us in North Amer- 
ica; there are bloody battles in the territory where our 
gallant Jumonville was killed eight years ago. War de- 
stroys all the blessings that the sun gives, and gold brings 
equal disaster; it is because of a shameless lust for gold 
that African slaves are poured into Mexico. 

Ah! perisse la memoire 

De nos lainentables jours! 

Grand Dieu! quelle ombre assez noire 

En peut absorber le cours! 

Si&cle infame! si^cle atroce! 

Ou Fimpiet^ f eroce 

Du ciel usurpa les droits! 

The poet hopes that the sun will lead mankind to a 
happy existence in the Fortunate Islands, very pleasantly 

212 The Lisbon Earthquake 

imagined; but we need not follow him further. It is 
enough to know that in the space of about six years the 
age of optimism had in Le Brun's opinion degenerated 
into the Dark Ages. The eighteenth century: siecle in- 
fame, siecle atroce. 

Chapter Eight 


news of the earthquake that had done so much 
harm to Lisbon travelled slowly. It took a week or ten 
days before it was generally known in Spain and in the 
near Mediterranean world, well over a fortnight to reach 
Paris and London, and nearly a month to get to Ham- 
burg. In England the arrival of Sir Benjamin Keene's dis- 
patch of 10 November from Madrid was the first intima- 
tion of what had happened. The shock of the news, as 
soon as the magnitude of the disaster became current talk, 
was so upsetting that some people at first refused to be- 
lieve in what seemed to be a preposterous rumour. On 
#5 November, Horace Walpole wrote, "there is a most 
dreadful account of an earthquake in Lisbon, but several 
people will not believe in it," and on the following day 
the Duke of Bedford was informed that "the terrible re- 
port from Lisbon is not believed in the extent it is talked 
of." Samuel Johnson was for a long time sceptical. And 
the first accounts to arrive were, of course, exaggerated 
and contradictory. Two-thirds of the city destroyed and 
about one hundred thousand lives lost, was the announce- 
ment in the London Magazine on 26 November, but "we 
must wait for more exact accounts/* In the December 


214 The Lisbon Earthquake 

number the death-roll was given as seventy thousand, 
though there were only ten or twelve English casualties. 
In France the Due de Luynes had information from Lis- 
bon that the losses numbered eight thousand to thirteen 
thousand; but later he thought this was a deliberate un- 
derstatement issued purposely in order to save the King 
of Portugal pain; fifty thousand was more likely. This was 
the figure the Gazette de France (22 November) had al- 
ready suggested. On all sides people were thinking and 
talking about the earthquake, and especially about the 
poor King of Portugal, for the privations of King Jos6 
seemed to epitomize the full horror of the earthquake. 
That a king should suffer thus! A letter by him to his 
brother-in-law. King Ferdinand VI of Spain, was quoted 
as showing that for the first day or two the miserable 
monarch did not even know if he was going to get enough 
to eat, a dreadful thought that made a deep impression 
both in England and in France. 1 
There were four practical reactions to the news, and 

1 The English had decided they liked King Jos6: popular verse lavished 
praise on him: 

A noble palace in whose bright domain, 
A monarch loving as belov'd does reign; 
Generous, humane, who scorns the servile art, 
By ought but reason to engage the heart; 
Who knows no pleasure but his country's bliss, 
In that is centred every heart-felt wish; 

A Poem on the Late Earthquake at Lisbon. 

London, 1755. 

Lo, the good king from out the ruin'd heaps, 
By providence divine, like Lot escapes; 

Like Job he grieved, like Job he kissed the rod, 
And own'd the justice of his angry God, 

A Poem on tJie Earthquake at Lisbon. 
London, 1755. 

London, 1755-56 215 

the first was charity. Religious anxiety and concern over 
financial losses and scientific speculation shared jointly a 
second place. The charity was warmhearted and immedi- 
ate, for in spite of all that was so soon said about the 
chastisement of the wicked Lisbon people being deserved, 
in general people were truly sorry for the Portuguese and 
did not neglect their kindly duties as neighbours. 2 The 
King of Spain made immediate presents of money and 
food, and eased the frontier regulations so that the in- 
flow of supplies would not be impeded; the King of France 
offered money to be minted at his expense in Portugal, 
an offer that was declined as was the main offer of finan- 
cial assistance from Spain. Hamburg sent ships to Lisbon 
laden with wood, which was desperately needed, and tiles, 
lead, and tools and other goods that would be practically 
useful in the emergency, and also a little personal gift, 
a token present of wine and sugar, for the King. Three 
ships were dispatched with this necessary material on 17 
December, and a fourth ship was most considerately kept 
in reserve to sail after Lisbon's requirements were better 
known. England sent money, partly in Portuguese gold 
coins and partly in Spanish silver dollars, meat, butter, 
biscuits, rice, wheat and flour, smoked herrings, boots and 
shoes, and picks and shovels. News that the gift was on 
its way reached King Jos6 at BeMm on 21 December; but 
a few days before this, H.M.S. Hampton Court, carrying 
the money, had had to put back into Portsmouth because 
of bad weather, and it was not until the last day of the 
year that the supplies began to arrive. 
There was a kindly thoughtfulness in the English gift. 

2 The Genoese republic seems, perhaps accidentally, to have been an 
exception. Giornale Ligustico (Anno., xiv, 1887), p. 69. 

216 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Meal and flour were included because it was feared that 
there might not be enough mills surviving in and close 
to Lisbon to grind quickly a large quantity of com. The 
Earl of Halifax suggested to the Duke of Newcastle that 
England should send out young surgeons and doctors, and 
also plenty of blankets. It was Sir John Barnard, M.P. for 
the City of London, who first thought of sending out a 
good supply of ready cash. There was also a less gen- 
erous suggestion that as much Irish beef as possible should 
be bought for Portugal, because this would be a good 
move against the French, suspected of wanting to use 
Ireland as a base for victualling their fleet. The Portu- 
guese were greatly comforted by this kindness and in- 
sisted that destitute British in Lisbon should take a first 
share of the gift. A nineteenth-century opinion, "They [the 
Portuguese] received the English relief, but cursed the 
heretical hands that afforded it," 8 is a false judgement in- 
fluenced by later commercial quarrels between the two 
nations, and stories of the wasteful mismanagement of the 
gift come from anti-Pombal sources and are unproven; 
also, there is no reason for believing Sir Benjamin Keene 
was right in his guess when he remarked to Castres in 
a letter of 16 February 1756 that he supposed that the 
British Factory would expect preferential treatment be- 
cause of the liberality of their nation. What is quite cer- 
tain is that Newcastle's Government was supported by a 
unanimous Parliament when, in response to His Majesty's 
gracious message of 28 November, Britain sent help to 
Portugal, generously, quickly, and with an unqualified 
sympathy for a friendly nation in distress. 

8 S. A. Dunham: History of Spain and Portugal, v, p. 257, (1832.) 
The author is quoting **a modern historian of Portugal." 

London, 1755-56 217 

Yet the commercial losses caused by the earthquake to 
nations other than the Portuguese was almost at once a 
matter of great concern. One of Voltaire's first thoughts 
on hearing the news was alarm about the fortune of his 
friend, Jean-Robert Tronchin, the banker of Lyons, and 
of the textile merchants of that city. Similarly, the heavy 
losses of the British Factory, both real and fancied, greatly 
shocked England. Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany, who was 
gloomily full of the noblest moral reflections on the dis- 
aster, had also time to think of her friends' financial in- 
terests. She wrote on 29 November, "Mr. MeUish's loss 
will be very considerable from the earthquake; he is a 
most worthy man; and his partner, now in England, has 
lost friends, fortune, family, every connection in life. Mr. 
Gore's loss is at least 30,000; Mr. Bristow, the mer- 
chant . . . 100,000; the Bishop of St. Asaph 7,000, 
part of his wife's fortune. 4 Every day will make, I fear, 
some new unhappy discovery." In December of the same 
year, 1755, the Reverend Josiah Tucker of St. Stephen's, 
Bristol, afterwards Dean of Gloucester, wrote, "This city 
of Bristol has suffered the least of any in the kingdom, 
considering the extent of its trade, by the late dreadful 
calamity at Lisbon, Only one person being concerned as 
an exporter of cloth, a worthy industrious parishioner of 
mine, who computes Ms loss at about 9,000." Letters 
from Lisbon reaching London after the earthquake un- 
derstandably emphasized this aspect of the disaster, for 
the British Factory had indeed suffered severely; offices 
had been destroyed, correspondence and ledgers burnt, 

4 Robert Hay Drummond (1711-76), later Archbishop of York; his 
wife was the daughter of a London merchant. 

218 The Lisbon Earthquake 

money and merchandise irretrievably lost; no one could 
doubt that the earthquake had done great harm to British 
overseas trade, and there were many justifiable and un- 
derstandable laments. The great hope was that a recovery 
of Lisbon's normal facilities for trading would put all this 
right. An anonymous English poet understood the posi- 
tion. Rebuked by his muse for questioning God's whole- 
sale slaughtering of the Portuguese without warning, at a 
time when many of these unfortunate people were doubt- 

Unfit to stand their Audit dread, 
With all their crimes upon their Head, 
Perhaps, full-blown as May! 

he was told to think of the future and was granted a 
vision of Lisbon recovered from the disaster. Buildings 
are being erected; merchandise is pouring into the splen- 
did new city; the harbour is crowded with boats; there 
is a pocket-filling economic boom: 

The Sons of Commerce fill the Street, 
In Hymns their great Restorer greet, 
And hail reviving Trade. 

Side by side with the mercenary consideration, there 
was much fact-collecting and theorizing by scientists who 
did their best to account for the earthquake according to 
the seismological theories then current. Led by the Royal 
Society, there was a creditable and a very prolific inquiry, 
and John Bevis's History and Philosophy of Earthquakes, 
the best known of the scientific publications of the time, 
is a notable corpus of seismological material, containing 
much useful contemporary information about the earth- 

London, 1755-56 219 

quake of i November 1755. 5 But the effect o the news 
that most of all concerns this chapter and the chief in- 
terest of this book is the religious consternation that so 
quickly made itself apparent in England, as indeed in 
other European countries. 

People were seriously perturbed and felt that a solemn 
supernatural message had been delivered to them. Pos- 
sibly, this consternation was felt more generally in Eng- 
land than elsewhere on the Continent. Treaty quarrels and 
religious differences did not diminish England's basic af- 
fection for Lisbon and the Portuguese; many Englishmen 
knew Portugal well and had lived happily there, or had 
friends who had done so; the nation had no such close 
ties with any other independent foreign country. Samuel 
Richardson wrote on 15 December 1755, 'What dreadful 
news we have from Lisbon. The only city in the world, 

5 Published, London, 1757. The work is described as by "a member 
of the Royal Academy of Berlin." Another useful study is An Historical 
Account of Earthquakes, Liverpool, 1756, by an anonymous author, pub- 
lished with the Fast-Day sermon of Thomas Hunter of Weversham, 
Cheshire, but not by him. A curious paper well worth reading is John 
Winthrop's A Lecture on Earthquakes; read in the Chapel of Harvard 
College in Cambridge, N.E., November 26th, 1755 on an occasion of 
the great Earthquake which shook New-England the week before (Bos- 
ton, 1755 ) . Winthrop was Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy, and 
his subject was an earthquake of 18 November that "so lately spread 
terror, and threatened desolation throughout New-England." It does not 
seem lo have done very much harm apart from breaking the spindle of 
the vane on Faneuil Hall in Boston, but it created the usual consterna- 
tion in full measure. Winthrop, however, had a good deal to say in 
favour of earthquakes; they may be "of real and standing advantage to 
the globe in general." They destroy multitudes, but much greater mul- 
titudes may have been every day benefited by them. They loosen and 
disunite the parts of the earth, and open its pores. They should be com- 
pared with ploughing and the breaking up of the clods of earth. This 
view ought to silence all complaints of sufferers and the objections of 
sceptics. We are, said Winthrop, "in a miYd state." Nothing is simply 
and absolutely evil. 

220 The Lisbon Earthquake 

out of the British dominions, by which so tremendous a 
shock could have so much affected us. When the Al- 
mighty's judgements are abroad, may we be warned/' 
This is a statement of the normal reaction of the English- 
man to the news of the Lisbon earthquake, just as part 
of Isaiah xxvi. 9 was many times chosen as the appro- 
priate text for a sermon on this occasion: "for when thy 
judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world 
will learn righteousness." 

Moralizing poured forth in speech and writing. "What 
a scene is this," Mrs. Delany continued in her letter of 
29 November, "to awaken those who think of nothing but 
greatness and wealth! and to those of a better turn it 
will, I hope, strengthen their pursuit after immortal hap- 
piness." She was aware that not everybody kept such no- 
ble reflections persistently in mind. "Can those wretches 
at Whites," she asked on Boxing Day, "read [sad accounts 
of more earthquakes] like common paragraphs of news? 
Surely no: at least it is to be hoped they cannot; and yet 
I fear that those who least stand in need of such warn- 
ings are most touched by them." 

This was probably a harsh judgement, as the wretches 
at White's may have been just as shocked by the earth- 
quake news as Mrs. Delany. The young Captain Augustus 
Hervey, afterwards third Earl of Bristol, who had recently 
had a most gloriously happy time at Lisbon, would cer- 
tainly have been considered by Mrs. Delany, had she 
known of his goings-on, as a wretch deplorably in need 
of warning; but, when he got the news at Malta, he wrote 
in his diary, "The next day, the gth, we had the sacl news 
of the fatal earthquake that happened at Lisbon, with 

London, 1755-56 221 

many particulars of that misfortune, and that it had been 
felt in many places of Europe, and even across the ocean 
to Barbary. . . . These are frightful events, and ought to 
inspire reflections that should mend the lives of individ- 
uals in order not to deserve such chastisements from 
Providence/' 6 It cannot be said that the gallant sailor 
himself made an impresive show of reform; but his im- 
mediate sadness was genuine and his sentiment sincere. 
The earthquake did produce, however, a marked change 
in people's behaviour, lasting at any rate for some months. 
Dr. Law, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, 
wrote from Peterhouse on 20 January 1756 to the Duke 
of Newcastle, "We have been perfectly quiet here, nor 
have I had any certain information of the least irregu- 
larity among the scholars. It is rather become fashionable 
to be decent/* After the public Fast-Day in February 1756 
Horace Walpole wrote to Henry Seymour Conway, "Be- 
tween the French and the Earthquake you have no no- 
tion how good we are grown; nobody makes a suit now 
but of sackcloth turned up with ashes/' The fast was kept 
so devoutly, that Dick Edgecumbe, finding a very lean 
hazard at White's, said with a sigh, "Lord, how the times 
are degenerated! Formerly a fast would have brought 
everybody hither; now it keeps everybody away/' Ordi- 
nary folk and not only the clergy were much upset when 
a masquerade was advertised to take place at the Hay- 
market Theatre towards the end of January. The an- 
nouncement was an affront to the nation's mood, the 
Bishop of London told Newcastle on 20 January; the 
Duke agreed, and he went at once to ask the King to 

6 Augustus Hervey's Journal, ed. David Erskine, p. 189. London, 1953. 

222 The Lisbon Earthquake 

stop the ball, which was done, the King having also re- 
ceived a protest from the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Walpole was full of gossip on this subject of reformed 
characters, not always accurate, but shrewdly sensing the 
earthquake-mood. Even the fascinating speculation about 
the Pompadour's rouge took an earthquake-turn. 

In France the prosecution of the war was by no 
means an unanimous measure. D'Argenson, the pro- 
moter of it, was on ill terms with Madame Pompadour 
whose interest was to lull the King and nation in pleas- 
ures and inactivity, not to foment events that might 
shake her power. It received a blow from another quar- 
ter. The Cardinal de la Rochfoucault and Sassy/ the 
King's Confessor, played off the earthquake on his su- 
perstition. He promised to receive the sacrament at 
Easter, and relinquish his mistress. She, who held more 
by habit than passion, saw no reason why a woman 
might not work the machine of religion as well as a 
priest, and instantly gave in to all his Majesty's scru- 
ples; offered up her rouge to the demon of earthquakes, 
and to sanctify her conversion and reconcile it to Court- 
life, procured herself to be declared Dame du Palais to 
the Queen. 8 

The best-known comment on the effects produced by 
the preaching and moralizing after the earthquake was 
that of Goethe, recalling his childhood. "The peace of 
mind of a little boy [he was just over six years old] was 
for the first time most profoundly disturbed by an event 

7 Pere de Sacy, a Jesuit. 

s Memoirs of the Reign of King George II (second edition, 1847), n, 
p. 176. 

London, 1755-56 223 

of worldwide significance." The Lisbon earthquake, Goe- 
the said, startled a more or less quiet and happy society 
with a sudden terror, and he described the horrible na- 
ture of the event with its reputed sixty thousand casual- 
ties, and he told of the alarm caused in Germany and 
elsewhere by reports of earth-tremors and the disturbance 
of waters all over Europe. "Thereafter came a swarm of 
theories from the pious, consolatory opinions from the phi- 
losophers, and threatening sermons from the clergy." The 
whole world was afraid. 

Perhaps never before has the Demon of Fright so 
quickly and so powerfully spread horror throughout the 
land. The little boy, who heard everybody talking about 
the event, was deeply impressed. God, the creator and 
preserver of heaven and earth, God, said to be omnis- 
cient and merciful, had shown himself to be a very poor 
sort of father, for he had struck down equally the just 
and the unjust. In vain the young mind sought to com- 
bat this idea; but it was clear that even learned theo- 
logians could not agree about the way in which to ac- 
count for such a disaster, 

"Embarrassing for the professors of physics and humil- 
iating for the theologians" had been a first comment of 
Edmond-Jean Barbier, the Parisian lawyer and diary- 
writer, when he heard of the great earthquake. It was 
a shrewd judgement. The scientists puzzled everybody 
with the variety of their theories about the physical causes 
of an earthquake, and the theologians found themselves 
in a confusion of attack and defence, anxious on the one 
hand to use the earthquake as a rebuke to sin, and forced 

224 The Lisbon Earthquake 

on the other hand to justify such an indiscriminately sav- 
age act of a supposedly loving God. The clergy had to 
preach to a cowed and at the same time a questioning 

There were a number of very peculiar views expressed, 
and the laity had plenty to say as well as the parsons. In 
England, for example, a Member of Parliament, who was 
an Old Testament scholar, and presumably an admirer of 
Warburton's Divine Legation, demanded a return to the 
philosophy of Moses, who, he said, was a much wiser 
man than either Descartes or Newton. The world was 
paying now for its neglect of Moses's teaching. What 
were the autos-da-fe of Portugal but orgies of human sac- 
rifice conducted "amidst the acclamation of the most ig- 
norant and bigotted race of men that ever pretended to 
the name of Christians'? Moses had condemned idol- 
atry, but idolatry was rampant in Portugal where the 
Supreme Being could be seen represented in the figure 
of an old man. Images of "He and She Saints" crowded 
the churches, and incense and genuflexions honour these 
senseless blocks of wood. And though God is at the mo- 
ment punishing disobedience to the Mosaic rule in Por- 
tugal how do we know that His earthquakes will not 
progress round the whole globe, destroying us on the 
way? For the English are every bit as bad in their neglect 
of Moses's teaching; they are corrupt, and have an in- 
satiable appetite for amusements like cards and the the- 
atre; they live in the idlenes of a Sodom they have made 
for themselves. Read what Gildas said about the Britons 
before they were overrun by the Saxons, and see if that 
scathing denunciation does not fit the Britons of the pres- 

London, 1755-56 225 

ent day. Back then at once to the proper austerity of the 
rale of Moses. 9 

It was easy enough in a Protestant country to heap re- 
proaches upon poor Lisbon. Lisbon, stated the London 
Magazine succinctly, "might be said to be at once the 
most visibly rich, and the most abandonedly wicked and 
superstitious city in the world/* A "Clergyman at Lon- 
don/* addressing words of comfort to "the remaining dis- 
consolate inhabitants of Lisbon/' told them that in spite 
of all their religious magnificence and their show of de- 
votion they had "surpassed the whole world in wicked- 
ness"; "is there/* he asked them, "a scene of lewdness or 
debauchery that was ever practised which hath not been 
daily repeated in your religious houses?'* And as for mur- 
der, a Lisbon priest could be hired as an assassin for a 
mere trifle. The Inquisition; the idols; what could be 
worse? "If you have not entirely lost your reason, by 
being debarred the use of it/' you should now ask your- 
selves how God could possibly overlook your wicked be- 

s Reflections Physical and Moral upon the various . . . Phenomena 
. . . which have happened from the Earthquake at Lima, to tJw present 
time. In a series of Familiar Letters from a Member of Parliament in 
Town to his Friend in the Country (London, 1756). The author was 
probably James Dawkins (1722-57), a wealthy young Jacobite, M.P. for 
Hindoo, Wiltshire, who was born in Jamaica; in the course of a short 
life he had travelled widely, and it was he who accompanied Robert 
Wood to Palmyra and Balbec, I owe this identification to the kindness 
of Sir Lewis Namier and Mr. John Brooke of the History of Parliament 
Trust. Another curiosity of the period is the Earnest Address to the peo- 
ple of this country by Alexander Cruden (1701-70), author of the Bib- 
lical Concordance, "the Corrector" appointed by heaven to censor the 
morals of the British. He was at this time petitioning the House of Com- 
mons to introduce his Bill for the "Reformation of the People," and he 
wrote to the Duke of Newcastle to point out that the Lisbon earthquake 
and the threat of war with France made it more than ever urgent to 
get his Bill passed. 

226 The Lisbon Earthquake 

haviour, and do not let there be any grumbling talk about 
the innocent perishing with the guilty; there were no 
really innocent people in Lisbon. And, "if any English 
residents remain," let them ask themselves if they were 
not miserably debauched and unworthy Protestants, gam- 
bling and drinking, and cheating at business just like the 
dishonest traders among whom they lived. "I am sorry to 
say it is a known truth that the English in general which 
composed our several factories abroad are far from do- 
ing honour to the Christian character by their exem- 
plary lives." The Lisbon priests, with particularly unsym- 
pathetic injustice, were sternly denounced. One writer 10 
accused them of telling falsehoods, and even fathering 
them upon God Himself, in order to plunder the earth- 
quake victims. As for the Inquisitors, "the hottest Hell," 
said a preacher in Staffordshire, "will undoubtedly be 
their portion." 1X 

It was, most of all, the cruelty of the Inquisition that 
even the merciful could not put out of their minds; blood- 
guiltiness it was called (PL VIII). John Wesley asked; 

Is there indeed a God that judges the world, and is 
he now making an Inquisition for Blood? If so, it is not 
surprising he should begin there [Lisbon] where so 
much blood has been poured on the ground like wa- 
ter? Where so many brave men have been murdered, 
in the most base and cowardly, as well as barbarous 
manner almost every day, as well as every night, while 
none regarded or laid it to heart. . . . How long has 
their blood been crying from the earth? Yea, how long 
has that bloody House of Mercy, the scandal not only 

10 S. Hayward: Letter to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, London 
11 R. Watkins: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 13. Clifton Campville, Staffs. 

London, 1755-56 227 

of all religion., but even of human nature, stood to in- 
sult both heaven and earth? 12 

After the Inquisition, came idolatry and after that Por- 
tugal's abject devotion to wealth. "Think, O Spain, O Por- 
tugal of the millions of poor Indians that your forefathers 
butchered for the sake of gold/* 13 Sometimes there is a 
note of condescension in this type of denunciation. "The 
Portuguese nation is remarked for many vices, though in 
some qualities they are praiseworthy and some instances 
of piety and virtue there are without doubt among them; 
yet, in general, treachery and revenge, covetousness and 
usury, theft, and frequent murders, and above all most 
inhuman cruelty, are the character of that people." 14 
There is also an occasional note of self-satisfaction. "And 
when all the lofty temples and other Popish religious 
houses have been thrown down and laid in ruins, a sin- 
gle Protestant chapel, the only one in the place, hath 
been left standing.'' 15 And again, "Let us here observe 
the distinguishing arm of God, how effectually he sepa- 
rates from these objects of his displeasure those who are 
influenced by Christian principles; how, in their behalf, 
he says unto destruction, thus far shalt thou go, and no 
farther; how Protestants, who are safe in harbour, have 
His favour a sanctuary on every side of them." 1G 

12 Serious Thought occasioned btj the late Earthquake at Lisbon, pp. 
4, 5. Second edition, Bristol, 1755. Wesley confused the Inquisition with 
the Casa da Miseric6rdia. 

n{ Thomas Hartley, Hector of Winwick, Northants: God's Controversy 
with the Nations, p. 15. London, 1756. 

14 R, Watkins: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 7. Clifton Campville, Staffs. 

15 Thomas Alcock preaching at St. Andrew, Plymouth, 31 December 
1755 and 4 February 1756. 

ltj Exhortation . . . unto tJie People of London occasioned by the late 
Proclamation for a Fast By a Clergyman of Gloucestershire, p, a6. Lon- 
don, 1756, 

228 The Lisbon Earthquake 

Yet most preachers in England were neither smug nor 
unrelentingly hardhearted. Thomas Alcock (1709-98), 
who commented on the survival of the Protestant chapel, 
did go on to say that such arguments really meant noth- 
ing at all "If Popish superstition and cruelty made Lis- 
bon fall, how came Rome to stand?" He asked if a Por- 
tuguese bigot was really any worse an offender against 
God than an English infidel or atheist? The Portuguese 
have at least, he said, "a zeal of God," and he described 
them as punctual and honest in their dealings, and by 
their trade and alliance extremely beneficial to this na- 
tion. "Their Royal family are decent and generally well- 
spoken of." Alcock truly represented his Church in tak- 
ing as his text, as so many of his fellow-clergy did, Luke 
xiii, 2-5: 

And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that 
these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, 
because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, 
except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those 
eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew 
them, think ye that they were sinners above all men 
that dwelt in Jerusalen? I tell you, Nay: but, except 
ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

In fact, even the most ferocious denouncers of Lisbon 
wickedness usually went on to make it plain to their 
hearers that though the sins of the unlucky inhabitants 
of that city were scandalous, even more shocking and 
abominable were the sins of their own nation. What, for 
instance, in these special circumstances could be more 
deplorable than the behaviour of some of the refugees 
from the earthquake, or better illustrate the general de- 

London, 1755-56 229 

pravity of the British? A party of them, whose obvious 
duty it was to spend their first hours on return to their 
own country in humble thanksgiving, arrived in Falmouth 
when the church bells were ringing and, instead of go- 
ing to say their prayers, they went to a tavern, sent for 
whores and two fiddlers, and spent the night in riot and 
debauchery. 17 

The whole nation was easily shown to be in a miser- 
able state of sin. "When was there less Fidelity amongst 
Mankind? When was there less brotherly love? When 
was gratitude less practised? When were Murmurings 
more frequent? Malice more powerful? Envy more sub- 
til? Vengeance more active? Or Hatred more rooted in 
us?" 18 Drunkenness, perjury, profanity, desecration of the 
Sabbath: "people of any consequence in civil life would 
be ashamed to be seen at church, especially at the sacra- 
ments; and, if they want to go a journey, no day so con- 
venient and agreeable as the Sunday/' 19 Protestants had 
won the precious right to read the Bible; they shame- 
fully neglected the opportunity. In this country there is 
"such an affront offered by us to Christ, as the heathen 
do not offer to their idols, nor the Papists to their su- 
perstitions/' 20 Cards, dice, the theatre, dancing, gluttony, 
adultery, sodomy: "this nation has well-nigh filled up the 
measures of its iniquities/' 21 We are "a discontented, frac- 
tious, ungrateful, divided people/ 7 22 "It is almost a fashion 

17 T. Jones: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 10. St. Saviour, Southwark. 

18 Isaac Nieto ( Netto ) ; Fast-Day Sermon, p. 6. Portuguese Jews' Syn- 

10 Webster: Fast-Dai/ Sermon, p. 26. Ware, Herts. 

20 Samuel Walker: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 11. Traro. 

21 T. Jones: Sermon, i February 1756, p. 8. St. Saviour, Southwark. 

22 James How: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 18. Milton-next-Gravesend, Kent. 

230 The Lisbon Earthquake 

to be thought wicked/' 23 What is to be expected of a 
nation that habitually sends its youth to Popish countries 
for improvement? Heresies are flourishing; a bold licen- 
tious spirit of criticism newly sprung up, declares the 
Scriptures to be uncertain and subject to correction. 24 Re- 
ligion is subject to banter, ridicule, and sophistry; it is 
persistently undermined by deism. Even the clergy are 
culpable, many of them being imprudent, indiscreet, sloth- 
ful, and idle. Britain's case was hard indeed, and there 
was no time left. "Tomorrow's sun may never rise upon 
us; this night may plunge us into the sleep of death . . . 
every word I speak, and every breath you draw, may 
be our last." 25 

The people listened to a storm of warnings and threats 
from their pastors. God "comes with many signal strokes 
of vengeance to awaken a careless and sleepy world," said 
William Romaine, Lecturer at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, 
on 30 November, preaching to the text, "Prepare to meet 
thy God/* Most of them were seriously frightened, but 
not all of them were frightened enough. On 14 Decem- 
ber this fine man had to speak more plainly to the peo- 
ple. God 

has arisen to shake terribly the earth, you are not 
moved. He has come to take vengeance on a guilty 
race, and has punished them with a most exemplary 
destruction, but you are not affected. . . . This strange 
stupidity and hardness of your hearts will soon bring 
down some heavy calamity upon you. 

23 John Fountayne, Dean of York: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 25. 

24 Daniel Gittms: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 27. South Stoke, Sussex, and 

25 Thomas Hunter: Fast-Day Sermon, p. 17. Weversham, Cheshire. 

London, 1755-56 231 

Another writer cried: 

Wo unto thee Britain; wo unto thee Ireland; wo unto 
thee London; wo unto thee Liverpool; for if the in- 
structions, the admonitions, the warnings, the counsels, 
which have from God been given unto you, in the pure 
preaching of the Gospel, had been given to Lisbon, it 
would long ago have repented and turned from all its 
abominations, and remained to this day. Therefore it 
shall be more tolerable for that ruined city in the Day 
of Judgment than for you. 26 

But all this was not part of the message that the Church 
of England delivered in a responsible corporate voice; the 
Church asked of its people a change of heart, and one 
of the official measures taken in order to give opportunity 
for a serious effort to understand what the Church had 
to say was the appointment by royal proclamation on 18 
December 1755 of Friday, 6 February 1756, as a general 
Fast-Day. There had been many of these days of public 
intercession and repentance before, mostly with the self- 
ishly national intention that such occasions tend to have, 
and 6 February was no exception, for fear of the ap- 
proaching war with France had been added to the fear 
of a great earthquake like that which had destroyed Lis- 
bon. But even so the traditional wording of the procla- 
mation is impressive. 

Whereas the manifold Sins and Wickedness of these 
Kingdoms, have most justly deserved heavy and severe 
punishments from the Hand of Heaven; and the Al- 

20 An Historical Account of Earthquakes, p. 129. Liverpool, 1756, This 
lively anonymous work is published with Thomas Hunter's Fast-Day Ser- 
mon preached at Weversham, Cheshire, and is attributed to him; but 
there is strong internal evidence that the Account is not by Hunter. 

232 The Lisbon Earthquake 

mighty, out of His great Mercy, hath not only been 
our Defence in Times of Danger, but hath protected 
and preserved Us from imminent Destruction, espe- 
cially at this Time, when some neighbouring Countries, 
in Alliance and Friendship with Us, have been visited 
with a most dreadful and extensive Earthquake, which 
hath also, in some Degree, been felt in several Parts of 
Our Dominions: 

a public fast is to be observed in England and Wales, as 
also by separate proclamations in Scotland and Ireland. 

The proclamation ordered that special forms of prayer 
should be published for the occasion. The principal col- 
lect in the form for public use is a petition that expresses 
exactly the theological significance of the Lisbon earth- 
quake as it was generally understood and accepted in the 
eighteenth century: 

we, vile dust and miserable sinners, in a most awful 
sense of thy amazing power . . , beseech thee, O Lord, 
to awaken our consciences yet farther, that we may see 
and duly consider thy hand, which, in the most aston- 
ishing manner, hath been lifted up so near us. Pardon 
those crying sins, which have produced these tokens of 
thy heavy displeasure, and grant us all such a measure 
of thy grace, that we may no more disobey thy laws, 
abuse thy forbearance, or despise thy chastisements, 
lest a worse thing come upon us. It is of thy goodness, 
O Lord, that we were not all consumed, when thou didst 
arise to shake terribly the earth, and that in the midst 
of judgement, thou didst remember mercy. Let the deep 
sense of this work in us such a thankfulness of heart 
. . . that no calamity may surprise us, nor death itself 

London, 1755-56 233 

come upon us unawares, and that we may at length ar- 
rive at that blessed Kingdom, which cannot be shaken. 

. . . Amen. 

A large number of the Fast-Day sermons have been 
printed, and all of them have a central message calling 
for repentance and a change of heart. "Thou also shall 
perish. Behold me smoking! Remember and REPENT. This 
is the short but very full sermon that Lisbon in ruins 
preaches to London in sin." 27 It was the proper theme 
for the occasion, and it was an expected message. "The 
public fast was observed with a becoming decency by all 
ranks of people. The churches and meeting-houses were 
thronged, and there was, in appearance, an entire cessa- 
tion from business throughout the city and suburbs, and 
all over the kingdom.'* 28 The public mood dictated the 
preacher's discourse; but the Fast-Day sermons were nev- 
ertheless mostly fine and original messages of conscien- 
tious pastors, and understandably so, for, preached as they 
generally were to crowded congregations of attentive and 
apprehensive people, these sermons had to be the very 
best the preachers could prepare to fit so important an 

As an example, here is the substance of a sermon 
preached on the Fast-Day at St. Paul's, Deptford, by the 
rector, James Bate (1703-75), of Corpus, Cambridge, The 
Lisbon earthquake, he said, "exceeds anything in history" 

27 George Home: Fast-Day Sermon., p. 19. Oxford (City and Univer- 
sity). Home was Fellow of Magdalen, and later President, and after- 
wards Bishop of Norwich; the Lisbon earthquake happened on his 
twenty-fifth birthday. 

28 London Magazine, vol. xxv ( February 1756 ) . Three houses of the 
Quakers in Lombard Street kept open and caused great affront, so much 
so that in the afternoon an indignant crowd broke their windows. Pub- 
lic Advertiser, 7 February 1756. 

234 The Lisbon Earthquake 

except the Flood, and we have to reckon with the fright- 
ening fact that our own island has subterranean caverns 
beneath its surface that could easily produce a similar dis- 
aster here. But we do not understand "the Councils of 
God," and we do not know what is going to happen. "It 
is God alone who can dart his eye through futurity," and 
all we can be sure of is that He has adapted the "ma- 
chine of the Universe" to answer all His purposes. Earth- 
quakes are part of His plan; but we have to remember 
that this world is not a place of retribution, but a place 
of probation, for God usually punishes sinners not here 
but hereafter; therefore the sufferers in an earthquake are 
not necessarily very evil people, and in the case of the 
Lisbon earthquake we must recognize that God is speak- 
ing to us all. The plain fact is that God has now no other 
way of bringing us to our senses than by frightening us; 
that is the purpose of this really dreadful calamity. Let 
us then heed this obvious warning and humbly acknowl- 
edge that we must immediately and genuinely mend our 
ways. Yet our peril does not mean that we must despair. 
We are not a hopelessly bad people; we have been very 
generous to Portugal; we are improving in loyalty to our 
Hanoverian King; we appreciate our present Government; 
we tolerate dissenting Protestant brethren, and our in- 
creasing political solidarity is adding to the confusion of 
the encroaching, falsehearted and perfidious French. 

In this multitude of sermons, alike in kind, but sur- 
prisingly varied, indeed sometimes contradictory in em- 
phasis and detail, it is to the credit of the preachers 
that nearly all have some strong individual character. 
For another example there is the opinion of the learned 
and truculently argumentative William Warburton ( 1698- 

London, 1755-56 235 

1779), afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, who in 1756 was 
a royal chaplain and preacher at Lincoln's Inn, where he 
delivered his Fast-Day sermon. 

Warburton had had something to say about the Lisbon 
earthquake before he preached his Fast-Day sermon in 
Lincoln's Inn Chapel. He thought that the calamity had 
not really produced the effect it should have done, and 
on 9 December 1755 he wrote: 

Time was, when the imaginary displeasures of Heaven 
in a comet or an eclipse have disarmed warring nations 
when their swords were already lifted up for mutual 
slaughter. But I do not hear that these marks of divine 
displeasure on a sinful people are likely to abate our 
and our neighbours animosities against one another. 29 

To Richard Kurd, also in December 1755, he said: 

To suppose these desolutions the scourge of heaven 
for human impieties, is a dreadful reflection; and yet 

to suppose ourselves in a forlorn and fatherless world, 
is ten times a more frightful consideration. In the first 
case, we may reasonably hope to avoid our destruction 
by the amendment of our manners; in the latter we are 
kept incessantly alarmed by the blind rage of warring 
elements. 80 

But Warburton also wondered whether the significance of 
the disaster was overestimated. 

And yet does not human pride make us miscalculate? 
A drunken man shall work as horrid a desolation with 
the kick of his foot against an ant-hill, as subterraneous 
air and fermented minerals, to a populous city. And if 

29 Letter to Joseph Atwell: Works, xiv, p. 257. London, 1841. 
a <> Warburton-Hurd Letters, LXXXVU. 

236 The Lisbon Earthquake 

we take in the universe of things, rather with a philo- 
sophic than a religious eye, where is the difference in 
point of real importance between them? 

The only difference lies in the merits of the two socie- 
ties, for "the little Troglodytes" are superior to men in 
organisation, behaviour, and industry; and in a passage 
of bitter pessimism Warburton rejected the view that the 
sovereignty of Reason gave man the advantage over the 

To this I reply, that the common definition of man 
is false: he is not a reasoning animal. The best you can 
predict of him is, that he is an animal capable of rea- 
son, and this too we take upon old tradition. For it has 
not been my fortune yet to meet, I don't say with any 
one man, but I may safely swear with any order of men, 
who ever did reason. 

Warburton's Fast-Day sermon has the title National 
and Civil Events the Instruments of God's Moral Gov- 
ernment. God, our moral governor, must be expected to 
make His dominion manifest in any way He likes in what- 
ever kind of world He has been pleased to station His 
accountable and probationary creatures, and in inflicting 
upon the world a great disaster it must be ordinarily as- 
sumed that whether or no the disaster is a direct punish- 
ment on a particular people for a particular offence, it 
is quite certainly a warning to all mankind. The truth is 
that great general calamities, which must be accepted as 
evidence of God's displeasure at our sins, in fact display 
"his glory in the fairest colours" and help to establish 
"man's peace and happiness on the most lasting founda- 
tions"; for to maintain, as was fashionable, that an earth- 

London, 1755-56 237 

quake had nothing to do with God's moral government is 
simply to increase the disquiet and alarm of miserable 
mankind thus abandoned by Providence. But i the cause 
of natural events is pre-established in relation to a moral 
government of the world, heresies such as that of Mani- 
chaean "evil principle" that has a share in the direction 
of the universe, are shown to be ridiculous, and a pious 
person has a comforting glimpse of the generous wisdom 
of God's rule. For it is a comforting thing to know that 
a sincere purpose of amending public manners can avert 
an approaching act of divine vengeance. The action and 
prayers of good men have their part in the "pre-estab- 
lished harmony" which God has willed to exist between 
moral actions and natural events. 

Such were the Fast-Day sermons, and the general les- 
son allowed no misunderstanding. The Almighty's judge- 
ments were abroad in the world, and the inhabitants of 
the world must therefore learn righteousness. Except ye 
repent, ye shall all likewise perish. It was for the times 
a fair and sensible message, for the clergy did not have 
to persuade a sceptical congregation that God was oper- 
ating through the earthquake; on the contrary, a large 
majority of the people who came crowding into the 
churches were there because they were guiltily sure that 
God was indeed threatening them. Nevertheless, the re- 
ligious argument following upon the Lisbon earthquake 
in England is not a plain quarrel between philosophers 
who thought that earthquakes were natural events and 
theologians who thought they were direct actions of an 
angry God; for there intruded here, more than it did in 
the Latin countries, the controversial element of religious 
enthusiasm. An orthodox Anglican disputed two, as it 

238 The Lisbon Earthquake 

seemed to him, equally wrong views, protesting against 
"One set of men, who, influenced by superstition rather 
than benevolence, had taken greater liberties with the 
judgments of God than was consistent with the amiable 
spirit of Christianity"; and against another party, who, 
"more free indeed from religious Enthusiasm than licen- 
tious prejudices, had taken occasion from the late calam- 
ity to treat the notion of a providential interposition with 
very indecent mpckery." On the one hand, insulting liber- 
tinism, on the other hand, "a spirit of malevolent en- 
thusiasm" that had "hurried many persons to conclusions 
very uncharitable and . . . unwarrantable/' 31 

This conflict among the God-fearing is occasionally 
mentioned in the Fast-Day sermons. The Bishop of Ex- 
eter, George Lavington (1684-1762), a resolute enemy of 
any sort of religious enthusiasm, preaching in the Ca- 
thedral, having said all the right things about justifiable 
fear of God's punishment and the urgent need for re- 
pentance, warned his people against exaggerated dread 
and hysterical panic. God's good providence would still 
deliver us if each individual contributed his share to a 
national improvement in behaviour. Men were not to be 
terrified out of their wits by earthquake-fright, but must 
continue to perform their normal duties calmly and sen- 
sibly, refusing tq be driven crazy by apocalyptic alarms 
and wild stories about Chrisfs immediate advent. It is 
foolish to make the earthquake just "a shuddering topic 
of conversation.*' Men must not be abjectly afraid of the 
end of the world and of prodigies and portents. There is 
something within ourselves, said the Bishop, more peril- 

31 Peter Peckard: Dissertation on Rev. XI. 23, pp. i, 41. London, 1756, 

London, 1755-56 239 

ous than any fancied threats, namely the heavy sum of 
natural wickedness. That is the evil from which we must 
instantly fly. 

An example of the kind of thing the Bishop of Exeter 
so much disliked was the popular and fast-selling pam- 
phlet by John Wesley, Serious Thoughts occasioned by 
the late Earthquake at Lisbon, first published in London 
in 1755 and kept on the market in at least six editions. 
Wesley said it was directed not "to the small vulgar, 
but the great to the learned, rich, and honourable hea- 
thens, commonly called Christians," and He was deter- 
mined to give them a fright they would not easily for- 
get. People who believe in God, he said, believe the Al- 
mighty is not well pleased with the scandalous behav- 
iour of these heathens, for that is what they really are, 
and think He has shown His anger very plainly. How 
many hundred thousand men have lost their lives in war 
during the last half-century in Europe alone? Think of 
the dreadful earthquakes at Port Royal in Jamaica, at 
Lima in Peru, and at Catania in Sicily, especially Ca- 
tania, where "not so much as one Lot escaped out of 
Sodom." Then Lisbon. Many think the British too have 
been under the lash in their own country. We have had 
civil war (the '45), a cattle-plague, and the recent af- 
fair of Whiston Cliffs in Yorkshire, where there had been 
alarming earth-tremors and falls of rock. Wesley had been 
to see the effects of the great landslide here in March 
1755, and he wondered how England dare ignore such 
a portentous warning. No natural causes could account 
for his phenomenon; it was plainly God's work. Wes- 
ley turned angrily upon the presumptuous people who 
thought earthquakes and related events were accidents of 

240 The Lisbon Earthquake 

nature. To think this is demonstrably absurd on the au- 
thority of Scripture, and the theory is "extremely uncom- 
fortable"; for if it were true, what hope is left for man- 
kind? We are left defenceless in the power of the ele- 
ments; there is no help for us. In a splendid passage 
Wesley took the example of an earthquake: 

It comes! The Roof trembles! The Beams crack! The 
Ground rocks to and fro! Hoarse Thunder resounds 
from the Bowels of the Earth! And all these are but 
the Beginning of Sorrows. Now what Help? What Wis- 
dom can prevent? What Strength resist the Blow? What 
Money can purchase, I will not say Deliverance, but an 
Hour's Reprieve? Poor honourable Fool, where are now 
thy Titles? Wealthy Fool, where is now thy golden God. 
If any Thing can help, it must be Prayer. But what wilt 
thou pray to? Not to the God of Heaven: you suppose 
him to have nothing to do with Earthquakes. 

Wesley piled on the horror. Supposing we do not after 
all have an earthquake, "what think you of a comet?" 
What inded if Halley's comet burns the earth up in 1758! 
Remorselessly this powerful man hounded his readers into 
their duty of praying to God to save them, of fitting 
themselves to pray. Only a good Christian can be happy, 
for even if we are unhurt by storms, lightnings, earth- 
quakes, and comets, "yet there is another grim enemy at 
the door. And you cannot drive him away. It is Death." 
But the Christian does not even fear death, for it is the 
gate to the glories of Eternity; "he is so far from looking 
upon death as an enemy, that he longs to feel his wel- 
come embrace. He groans (but they are pleasing groans) 
to have Mortality swallowed up in Life." 

London, 1755-56 241 

It was magnificent, passionate exhortation, but it was 
the kind of thing that makes some people more embar- 
rassed than impressed. There was, in fact, a stony resist- 
ance to enthusiasm, and there were Anglicans who pre- 
ferred quieter, calmer thoughts than this sort of vigorous 
sermonizing reflects. One of them was the ailing Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Herring ( 1693-1757), who, 
if one may guess at his opinion from some references to 
the wording of the royal proclamation in his correspond- 
ence with his chaplain, did not attach undue importance 
to the Fast-Day. He had been sent John Wesley's pam- 
phlet, and privately, in a letter to his friend William Dun- 
combe, he said this: 

The author, in my opinion, with good parts and learn- 
ing, is a most dark and saturnine creature. His pictures 
may frighten weak people, that, at the same time, are 
wicked, but I fear he will make few converts, except 
for a day. I have read his Serious Thoughts, but, for 
my own part, I think the rising and the setting of the 
sun is a more durable argument for religion than all 
the extraordinary convulsions of nature put together. 
Let a man be good on right principles, and then im- 
pavidum ferient ruinae; so far Horace was as good a 
preacher as any of us. For myself, I own I have no con- 
stitution for these frights and fervors; if I can but keep 
up to the regular practice of a Christian life, upon Chris- 
tian reasons, I shall be in no pain for futurity, nor do 
I think it an essential part of religion to be pointed at 
for any foolish singularities. 

No enthusiasm. Many clergy of the Church of England 
must have shared the feelings of the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury and the Bishop of Exeter. "A presumptuous for- 

242 The Lisbon Earthquake 

wardness in pronouncing on extraordinary events we leave 
to raving designing monks, methodists, and ignorant en- 
thusiasts/ 5 32 They thought that the religious significance 
of the dreadful event in Lisbon and the alarm caused 
everywhere by the news of what had happened must not 
be estimated in a hotly emotional mood of earthquake- 
fright or distorted by the exultant triumph of a satisfied 
prophet of woe. London had not suffered as Lisbon had 
suffered. We must thank God for that. And clearly Lon- 
doners, and all the British, must accept a sharp warning 
from the Portuguese disaster. We must become a better 
and more truly Christian people. But there the matter 
must stop. We cannot answer the question, "Wherefore 
hath the Lord done thus unto this great city?" unless it 
be to warn us all, because we dare not accuse others of 
being sinners above all men. In short, we do not know 
why God allowed Lisbon to be destroyed. The great ser- 
mons of filie Bertrand in Switzerland had summed up all 
that eighteenth-century Protestant preachers had to say. 
God is holy, so we must be afraid of Him. God is loving 
and God is unchanging, so we must trust Him; even now 
when Lisbon lies in ruins. No English sermon said this 
so well. But Thomas Herring in his gentle way put it all 
in a single sentence, "Let a man be good on right prin- 
ciples, and then impavidum ferient fuinae?* Here is no 
consolation for the bereaved; no explanation of the deaths 
of innocent people. We do not understand. But, even so, 
a good Christian should be in no pain for futurity. Psalm 
XL VI: "God is our hope and strength: a very present help 

32 Anon. (? S. Letsome): Fast-Day Sermon. The Power of God over 
the Constitution of Naturewith a dedication to the younger part of the 
Town, p. 30, footnote. 

London, 1755-56 243 

In trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth 
be moved: and though the hills be carried into the midst 
of the sea." In a form of private and family prayers for 
the Fast-Day this was turned into a hymn "recommended 
to parents for their children to learn by heart, in order 
to impress on their tender minds an awful sense of their 
Creator's omnipotence in the late melancholy destruction 
of Lisbon." 

Tho* Earth her ancient Seat forsake, 

By Pangs convulsive torn, 
Tho* her self-balanced Fabrick shake, 

And rain'd Nature mourn: 

Tho' Hills be in the Ocean lost, 

With all their trembling Load, 
No Fear shall e'er disturb the Just, 

Or shake his Trust in God. 

Few converts "except for a day." The Archbishop was 
right. Very quickly the earthquake alarm and the Fast- 
Day mood of repentance changed into different despond- 
encies. War broke out; there were other things to think 
about, and the country slipped back into its old habits. 
"I am still alarmed about the invasion, but don't find peo- 
ple are so apprehensive as at first," Mrs. Delany was writ- 
ing on i April 1756. "Earthquakes are forgotten, assem- 
blies and balls go on as briskly as if no such warning had 
been given; indeed, if we stop there it might be innocent, 
but luxury of all kinds and gaming run higher than ever." 
This illuminating comment was not entirely accurate, for 
some obdurate pleasure-lovers were still mourning Lon- 
don's most notorious earthquake victim, the Masquerade; 
"we have never recovered masquerades since the earth- 

244 The Lisbon Earthquake 

quake at Lisbon," said Horace Walpole in 1762. But, gen- 
erally, Mrs. Delany was reporting the situation correctly. 
By the early summer of 1756 the Lisbon earthquake had 
lost in England its first tremendous emotional significance; 
it had become a memory, a memory of an awful event 
that was kept fresh by a stream of accounts of the state 
of the ruined city and of its rebuilding from British mer- 
chants and visitors in Portugal. 

This memory, however, survived for a veiy long time 
in the common consciousness because, quite apart from 
the last chapter's story of the death of optimism, the Lis- 
bon earthquake was a frequently mentioned event familiar 
to one and all, like other generally well-known facts in 
history. In England the "Adventures of Alphonso after the 
Destruction of Lisbon" in Lady Sarah Pennington's Let- 
ters on Different Subjects were being read in 1767 and 
afterwards, and Oliver Goldsmith introduced the earth- 
quake into the dialogue of The Good Natur'd Man ( 1768 ) 
as a topical allusion that everybody in the theatre would 
understand. Mr. BraddocFs exciting eyewitness account 
of the disaster was printed, long after its writer's death, 
in Charles Davy's Letters . . . upon Subjects of Litera- 
ture in 1787. There are many other references. 

It is not easy to say when the Lisbon earthquake be- 
came almost forgotten history, but it was probably before 
Teodoro de Almeida published Lisboa Destmida in 1803 
and the drama Le Desastre de Lisbonne was produced, 
mSle de danse et de pantomime, in Paris in 1804. There- 
after, its memory, outside Portugal, was kept alive in 
guide-books and travel-diaries, and only occasionally in 
nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. There are 
many admirers of the works of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 

London, 1755-56 245 

who remember the Lisbon earthquake through the vivid 
description of the disaster, based on the real adventures 
of Agnes Surriage and Sir Charles Henry Frankland, 33 in 
Lady Good-For-Nothing (1910), and there must also be 
many American and British readers of Oliver Wendell 
Holmes who have this two-hundred-year-old scrap of his- 
tory fixed inescapably in their minds. Because on its hun- 
dredth anniversary: 

there stood the stout old one-hoss-shay 
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake day. 

For, as we have been told, 

It was on the terrible earthquake day 
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss-shay. 

And then, a hundred years later, in 1855, 

First of November the Earthquake-day 
There are traces of age in the one-hoss-shay, 

and the end comes. 

First a shiver, and then a thrill, 
Then something decidedly like a spill, 
And the parson was sitting upon a rock, 
At half-past nine by the meetV-house clock- 
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock! 

ss For this story, see Elias Nason: Sir Charles Henry Frankland, Bar- 
onet: or Boston in Colonial Time. Albany, N. Y., 1865, and Oliver Wen- 
dell Holmes, Agnes. 

Bibliographical Note to Chapter Two 

The numerous eyewitness accounts of the Lisbon earth- 
quake are understandably confusing and contradictory,, 
particularly in the matter of the timing of the events of 
the first day. I have not attempted to make a new study 
of the earthquake and its effects, and this chapter is 
mainly based on two works: 

F. L. Pereira de Sousa: O Terremoto do 1 Novembro 
de 1755 e um Estudo Demografico. 4 vols. (espe- 
cially vol. 3). Lisbon, 1919-32. 

J. J. Moreira de Mendonga: Historia Universal dos Ter- 
remotos . . . com uma narragam individual do Ter- 
remoto do primeiro de Novembro de 1755 . . . em 
Lisboa. Lisbon, 1758. 

This second work is the best of the contemporary ac- 
counts, and Indeed it is a book of outstanding merit, in 
my view excelling all previous studies of great earth- 
quakes. I have, however, also made use of some other 
contemporary material mentioned in Chapter Three, and 
a number of recent topographical works published by the 
Academia das Ciencias de Lisboa and the Camara Muni- 
cipal of Lisbon: 

Eduardo Freire de Oliveira: Elementos para a historic 
do municipio de Lisboa. Tomo XVI, pp. 133 ff. Lis- 
bon, 1908. 

Gustavo de Matos Sequeira: Depois do Terremoto. Sub- 


248 The Lisbon Earthquake 

sidios para a historia dos bairros ocidentais de Lis- 
boa. 4 vols. Lisbon, 1916-34. 

Julio de Castilho: Lisboa Antiga; Bairros Orientals. Sec- 
ond edition. 12 vols. Lisbon, 1934-38. 

Gustavo de Matos Sequeira: O Carmo e a Trindade. 3 
vols. Lisbon, 1939-41. 

A. Vieira da Silva: As Muralhas da Ribeira de Lisboa. 
Second edition. 2, vols. Lisbon, 1940-41. 

In addition, an important source of general, biograph- 
ical, and topographical information is: 

Esteves Pereira and Guilherme Rodrigues: Portugal. 
Diccionario historico y etc. 7 vols. Lisbon, 1904-15. 

As regards bibliographies of the Lisbon earthquake, the 
most useful guide through the descriptive literature is the 
great work of Pereira de Sousa, mentioned above, which 
is packed with extracts from contemporary printed and 
manuscript accounts, and is fully annotated. Other Portu- 
guese and foreign works will be found listed in the fol- 
lowing publications: 

Hans Woerle: Der Erschutterungsbezirk des grossen 
Erdbebens zu Lissabon. Miinchener geographische 
Studien, ed. S. Giinther, vni (1900), pp. 6 fit., pp. 
22 ff. 

F. de Montessus de Ballore: Bibliografia general de 
temblores y terremotos. Vol. i, 1570 ft; Vol. vn, 
6738 ft, 8662 ft Santiago de Chile, 1915-19. 

Catdlogo, second edition, of the Exposigao Comemora- 
tiva do Terremoto de 1755. Lisbon, 1934. 

Charles Davison: Great Earthquakes, pp. 27-28. Lon- 
don, 1936. 

For modern scientific accounts of the Lisbon earth- 
quake in English see: 

Bibliographical Note to Chapter Two 249 

Harry Fielding Reid: The Lisbon Earthquake of No- 
vember i, 1755. Bull. Seismological Society of 
America, iv, No. 2 (June 1914), p. 53. 

Charles Davison: op. cit., p. 27. Excellent for the Eng- 
lish eyewitness accounts and contemporary scien- 
tific discussion. 

Three of the English narratives stand out above others 
as vivid and informative accounts of the disaster: 

Mr. Braddock: For his adventures, see John Athelstane 
Smith, Conde da Carnota. Marquis of Pombal, p. 
51. Second edition, 1871; also printed by Charles 
Davy. Letters . . . upon Subjects of Literature, n 

p. 12 (1787). 

Thomas Chase: Gentleman s Magazine,, LXXXIH (1813), 
pp. 105-10, 201-06, 314-17. The earthquake took 
place on the twenty-sixth birthday of this young 
man, who was very badly injured. 

Mr. Fowke: A genuine Letter to Mr. Joseph Fowke 
from his brother near Lisbon. London, 1755? This 
vigorous and most interesting letter is dated 17 
November 1755. Mr. Fowke (or PFowkes) lived 
in the Cidade Baixa near the Church of Sao Nic- 

To Dr. Davison's bibliography, keeping principally to 
the English material, I would add: 

Baretti, J.: Journey from London to Genoa, i, pp. 1372. 

Third edition, 1770. 
Boxer, Professor C. K: Pombal's Dictatorship and the 

Great Lisbon Earthquake, 1755. History Today, v, 

No. 11 (November 1955). 
Cheke, Marcus: Dictator of Portugal, pp. 62 ff. London, 

1938. This is the best general account of the dis- 

250 The Lisbon Earthquake 

aster in English, and the preceding chapters should 
also be read as historical background to the earth- 

Estorninho, Carlos: O Terremoto de 1755 e a sua 
repercussdo nas relagoes Luso-Britanicas, Lisbon, 

Keene, Sir Benjamin: Private Correspondence. Ed. 
Richard Lodge. London, 1933. 

Macaulay, Rose: They Went to Portugal, pp. 267 ff.; 
also pp. 203 ff. London, 1946. 

Walford, A. R.: The British Community in Lisbon c. 
1755. Hist. Assoc. Lisbon Branch, loth Annual Re- 
port (1946-50), p. 639. 

Periodicals: In addition to the Philosophical Transac- 
tions of the Royal Society and the Gentleman's 
Magazine, cited by Davison, note also: London 
Evening Post, No. 4375 (22-25 November) ff.; 
London Gazette, No. 9532 (25-29 November) ff.; 
London Magazine, vols. xxiv, xxv, passim.; Pub- 
lic Advertiser, No. 6576 (25 November) ff,; Scots 
Magazine, vols. XVH, xvin, passim.; Whitehall Eve- 
ning Post, No. 1521 (22-29 November) ff. 

Addendum to Bibliographies 

Catdlogo, Exposigao iconogrdfica e bibliografica comemo- 
rativa da reconstruao da cidade depois do terre- 
moto de 1755. 

PaMcio Galveias. Lisbon, 1955. 

Publn. of the Camara Municipal de Lisboa. 


Afonso Henriques, 129 E. 
Agate, William, 19 
Agatha, St., 11411. 
Alcock, Thomas, 227 n., 228 
Allen, John, 32 
Almeida, Teodoro de ? 244 
Aubert, Abb6 J. L., 143 

Barber, W. H., 180 n. 

Barbier, E.-J., 223 

Barco y Gasco, A. J. del, 


Baretti, J., 166 
Barnard, Sir John, 216 
Bate, James, 233 
Beausobre, L. de, 200-01 
Bentley, Richard, 40 
Bertrand, filie, 166-69, 2 4^ 
Besterman, Theodore, i8cT n. 
Bevis, John, 218 
Bina, Andrea, 101 n. 
Borgia, St. Francis, 114, 121 
Boxer, C. R., 249 
Braddock, Mr., 244 
Bradshaigh, Lady, 29-30 
Brandao Ivo, M. T. P., 93 

Brooke, John, 225 n. 
Buendia y Ponce, F. de, 104 
Buraet, Thomas, 20-21 
Butler, Joseph, 36-37 

Cabrera, Miguel, 105, 109 
Candide, 179, 182, 198 ff. 
Canterbury, Archbishop of; 

see Herring, Archbishop 


Carnota, Conde de, 249 
Carvalho, S. J. de; see 

Pombal, Marques de 
Castilho, Julio de, 248 
Castres, Abraham, 70, 216 
Cevallos, Jose, 103 ff. 
Chandler, Samuel, 32, 37 
Chase, Thomas, 62 n., 249 
Chassonville, Abb6, 144 
Cheke, Marcus, 139, 166 
Clarke, John, 35-36 
Clarke, L. C. G. ? 189 n. 
Costa, J. A. da, 109 n. 
Coutinho, S. A., 175-76, 177 
Cox, James, 19-20 
Cruden, Alexander, 225 n. 



Cuers de Cogelin, J., 142 
Cimha Franga, F. da, 105-06, 

Davison, Charles, 248 
Davy, Charles, 244 
Dawkins, James, 22511. 
Deism, 34 

Delany, Mrs., 217, 220, 243-44 

Catania, 239 

Crucifixion, after the, 150 
Dauphine, 150 
Japan, 46 
Lima, 23, 239 

Lisbon see Lisbon Earth- 

Port Royal, 16, 23, 239 
Treatises on, 18, 24, 98 ff,, 

108, 219 n. 
Ecouchard Le Brun, P.-D., 


Electricity, 18, 100-02 
Enthusiasm, 238 ff. 
Estorninho, Carlos, 250 
Exeter, Bishop of; see Lav- 
ington, George 

Faria Cordeiro, J. C. de, 

176 ff. 

Fast-Day, 231 ff. 
Feyz6o, B. J., 99 ff., 109 
Figueiredo, A. da Silva, 176 
Flamsteed, John, 15 
Fountayne, John, 230 n. 
Fowke, Mr., 249 
Freire de Oliveira, E., 247 

The Lisbon Earthquake 

Gittins, Daniel, 230 n. 
Goethe, J. W., 222-23 
Goldsmith, Oliver, 244 
Gongalves Rodrigues, A. A., 

161, 163 
Goudar, Ange, 86-88, 158 

Hales, Stephen, 32 
Hartley, Thomas, 227 n. 
Havens, G. R., 191 n. 
Hayward, S., 226 n. 
Hazard, Paul, 202 n. 
Herring, Archbishop Thomas, 

241, 242-43 
Hervey, Capt. Augustus, 


Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 245 
Horne, George, 233 n. 
How, James, 229 n. 
Hume, David, 38, 202 n. 
Hunter, Thomas, 219 n., 

230 n., 231 n. 

Inquisition, in Portugal, 51, 
87-88, 108, 141, 158, 163, 
225, 226 

Jansenists, 1455. 
Johnson, Samuel, 213 
Jones, T,, 229 n. 

Kant, Immanuel, 198-200 
Keene, Sir Benjamin, 69, 213, 

216, 250 
King, Archbishop William, 33 

Lavington, George, 238-39 
Law, Edmund, 221 

Lefranc, J.-J., 192-93 
Leibniz, G. W., 35, 181-82, 

202, 208 

Lisbon Earthquake: 
Aftershocks, 69 
Cais de Pedra, 58, 59, 107 
Camps, emergency, 66-68 
Casualties, 58-61, 213-14 
Extent of, 47, 52-54 
Fire, 54-57 

Gifts from abroad, 215-16 
Images, fate of, 118-21, 124 
Losses, material, 56, 217-18 
Medical precautions, 94 iff. 
News of, 44, 213 
Processions, penitential, 


Prophecies, 115-18 
Recovery measures, 79 ff. 
Re-planning, 84 
Seismic waves, 57-58 
Trade, effect on, 84 ff. 
Lobb, Theophilus, 31, 32 
London, Bishop of; see Sher- 
lock, Thomas 

Macaulay, Rose, 250 
Malagrida, Gabriel, 135 ff., 
163, 164 

Index 253 

Montessus de Ballore, F, de, 

Moreira de Mendonga, J. J., 

58 n., 59, 71, 107-12, 247 
Moreira de Mendon9a, V. A., 

94, non., 111-12 
Morganti, Bento, 90, 110-11 

Namier, Sir Lewis, 225 n. 
Newcastle, Duke of, 40, 216, 

221, 225 n. 

Newman, Thomas, 31 
Nieto, Isaac, 229 n. 
Nifo y Cagigal, F. M., no n., 


Olazdvel y Olayzola, F. J. de, 

Oliveira, Chevalier de, 57, 

121 n., 155 ff. 
Optimism, 41, 180 ff. 
Ourique, Battle of, 129 ff. 
Oxford, Bishop of; see Seeker, 


Patriarch, Cardinal, 65, 68-69, 

7*, 73> 7 ? 80, 82, 122 
Peckard, Peter, 238 n. 
Pedegache; see Brandao Ivo 

Manuel, Jose; see Patriarch, Pennington, Lady Sarah, 244 


Masquerade, 41, 221, 243 
Matos Sequeira, G. de, 67 n., 


Mexico, Archbishop of, 123 
Moles, F. M., 109, 110 
Molinism, 151 ff. 

Pereira de Figueiredo, A., 71, 
72, 74, 75 n., 81, 90-92, 
162, 165 

Pereira de Sousa, F. L., 52-53, 
54 n., 247 

Pickering, Roger, 26-27, 32 

Pina e Mello, F. de, 171 ff. 


The Lisbon Earthquake 

Pombal, Marques de, 67, 

72 ff., 136 ff., 157 
Pompadour, Madame de, 222 
Pompignon, Marquis de; see 

Lefranc, J.-J. 
Pope, Alexander, 35, 180, 181, 

182, 202 
Portal, Manuel, 63:8:. 

Quakers, 233 n. 
Quiller-Couch, Sir A., 244 
Quita, D. dos Reis, 171 

Racine, son of Louis Racine, 

61, 192, 210 

Reid, H. Fielding, 58 n., 249 
Ribeiro Sanches, A. N., 94, 


Richardson, Samuel, 29, 219 
Roche, Juan Luis, 98 ff., 109 
Rodrigues, A. Duarte, 156 
Rohrer, B., 180 n. 
Romaine, William, 230 
Rondet, L.-E., 145 ff. 
Rousseau, J.-J., 165, 166, 


S. Jose, Antonio de, 125 

S. Jose, Miguel de, 105, 106, 


Sacramento, A. do, 126-29 
Sampaio, Cardinal, 71, 115 
Seeker, Thomas, 18, 26, 37., 


Seville, 99, 102 ff., 124 ff. 
Sherlock, Thomas, 16-17, 39> 

40, 221 

Shower, John, 24 
Silva, J. Alvares da, 92-93, 94- 

95, non. 

Silva, A. Vieira da, 248 
Smith, John Athelstane; see 

Carnota, Conde de 
Stillingfleet, Benjamin, 25 
Stukeley, William, 18-19, 28, 

31, 32, 43, 101 n. 

Theotonius, St., ii4n. 
Trovao e Sousa, J. de O., 89, 

90 n. 
Tucker, Josiah, 217 

Valadares e Sousa, J, X. de, 


Villaroel, Caspar de, 106 
Voltaire, F. M. A. de, 164, 

179, 180 ff., 193, 194, 195, 

201 ff. 

Walford, A. E., 250 

Walker, S., 229 n. 

Walpole, Horace, 14, 28, 39, 

213, 221, 222, 244 

Warburton, William, 17, 23, 

202 n., 224, 234-37 
Watkin, R., 226 n. ? 227 n. 
Webster, William, 229 n. 
Wesley, John, 11, 226, #39-40 

Index 255 

Whiston, William, 21-23, 32, Winthrop, John, 219 n. 

38, 40 Woerle, Hans, 248 
Whiston Cliffs, 239 

Whitefoord, Caleb, Son. Ximenez, Marquis de, 191, 
White's Club, 38, 40, 221 192 

Willey, Basil, 42, 181 

Williams, Basil, 42 Zuiiiga, Juan de, 105, no n.